Skip to main content

Full text of "Queering church : integrating queer theology in congregational life in Metropolitan Community churches"

See other formats

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2013 











Submitted in partial fulfillment of the 

requirements for the degree of 



© Copyright by 



Approved By 


The Rev. Dr. William M. Kondrath 
Professor of Pastoral Theology 


Ki^c P, 

Dr. Kwok Pui Lan 
Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality 


This thesis project is dedicated to the gifted and generous members and friends of 

The Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia 

for their unparalleled humor, creativity, and courage, 

and for their willingness to take a chance on a newbie. 





Introduction 1 

Chapter 1: Queer: Defining the Indefinable 4 

Chapter 2: Queer Theology 32 

Chapter 3: Making the Connections: Developing Queer Spiritual Communities 59 

Chapter 4: Leading Congregational Change in Queer Churches 87 

Conclusion 110 

Bibliography 112 


This project would not have been possible without the persistent love and support 
of my partner, Kala Payne, who continues to make my heart sing. Her willingness to 
read drafts of these papers and to endure my anxiety as each deadline approached 
provided me with the encouragement, wisdom, and comic relief I very much needed. My 
mother, Wyndy Wyatt, was also an early reader. Her excessive praise of my efforts is 
deeply rooted in parental bias, but nevertheless tremendously valued. 

This thesis project would also not have been possible without the support, 
flexibility, grace, and financial support of the congregation I am blessed to serve. The 
members and friends of MCC NOVA were generous in allowing me the time required to 
complete my coursework and write this thesis. Additionally (and no doubt to their 
chagrin), they provided me with too many case studies and examples to include. 
Particular mention is due Gail Minnick for agreeing to be my point of local accountability. 


Her questions about my work were as challenging as they were aggravating, and they 
helped me clarify my ideas and better articulate them. 

I am grateful to my D. Min. Colloquium for helping me articulate the goals of my 
thesis from the very beginning of this project, when 1 only had a vague notion of what I 
was doing and feared I was in way over my head. I am particularly indebted to The Rev. 
Drs. Ian Douglas and Joan Martin for their gentle guidance through the challenges of 
project proposals, thesis outlines, and the logistics of long-distance study. I am grateful 
to my advisor, The Rev. Dr. William Kondrath, for his patience, keen insights, and 
commitment to bridge the persistent gap between the academy and the church. I am 


grateful to the extraordinary Faculty of EDS, including Professors Kwok Pui Lan, Sheryl 
Kujawa-Holbrook, Larry Wills, Ed Rodman, and Bill Kondrath for their expert tutelage, 
challenging engagement, and willingness to help me mold the papers for their courses 
into something that would help shape this project. Aura Fluet and James Gorman 
provided invaluable writing and research advice. 

Along the way, conversations with my friends and colleagues in the field, 
including (in no particular order) and not limited to, The Revs. Nori Rost, Robert Griffin, 
Durrell Watkins, Tom Bohache, Joe McMurray, Penny Nixon, Mona West, Robert Goss, 
Robin Gorsline, Edgard Danielsen-Morales, and BK. Hipsher provided essential material 
for reflection. Thank you for your wisdom and your commitment to queering the church. 
Finally, I owe so much to The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, whose encouragement when I 
was still a teenager helped me begin discerning a call to the vocation of professional 
ministry in MCC (which has been one of the greatest blessings of my life); and to The 
Rev. Elder Jim Mitulski, a true mentor, whose constant support and encouragement 
during the course of my ministry has meant more to me than I can say. 

Final thanks go to Cindy Allan for her superb editing skills and willingness to 
courageously yield a red pen with a complete lack of fear about damaging my sensitive 
feelings. Any errors contained herein are solely mine. 

VI 1 


The impetus for this thesis emerged from my desire to answer the question, "If 
queer theology is worth anything at all, shouldn't it transform the way we live and 
function as the church?" My bias, of course, is demonstrated in the phrasing of the 
question itself. I am convinced that there are unique spiritual values and life lessons born 
of queer experience that have as much liberative potential for our churches as they have 
had for many of our lives. Queer theology — a liberation theology attentive to the 
changing dynamics of gender, sexuality, and identity that strives to help people find 
authenticity, vitality, and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit — cannot simply be a nice 
theory put on a shelf or discussed in sterile academic settings. Rather, it has much 
broader and more urgently needed implications; we must find ways to integrate it and 
allow it to critique and shape our praxis. I am deeply troubled when Metropolitan 
Community Church (MCC) congregations (who should know better!) uncritically 
replicate the systems of ideological, theological, or structural exclusion from which they 
themselves sought refuge and liberation. I want to answer this question because I feel 
called to help congregations do this work, and because I sense that my own faith in the 
usefulness of "church" altogether depends on it. 

This project will not serve as a theological argument for the full inclusion of 
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the church, though it assumes 
this as a legitimate and sacred goal. Neither will it contain or function as a study of 
homosexuality and the Bible; plenty has been written about that. While the work 
presented here may have implications for church contexts other than MCC, it is 
thoroughly rooted in the experience and reality of MCC congregations as I have known 


them. Likewise, while it may have applications in other cultural contexts, it is limited in 
its focus on dominant Western culture as observable in the contemporary United States. 
Finally and regrettably, due to the constraints of time and maximum page limitations, the 
project will not include a practical step-by-step guide or a proposal for a fiili 
congregational life curriculum. It attempts to join an emerging conversation, the insights 
of which must continue to be practically developed and applied. However, given those 
limitations, I do hope that this work is faithful to the challenging reality of the tension- 
filled, sacred, marginal, and erogenous zones of queer church experience. 



According to the Vision Statement of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), 
we "are on a bold mission to transform hearts, lives, and history. We are a movement 
that faithfully proclaims God's inclusive love for all people and proudly bears witness to 
the holy integration of spirituality and sexuality." 1 This is an unapologetically ambitious, 
optimistic, and forward-looking statement, which does seem to capture the heart of what 
MCC congregations want to be about in the world. Because we live in a world in which 
inclusive love has never been normative, as well as in a church and world in which the 
Gfo-integration of spirituality and sexuality has been rigorously enforced, living into this 
idealistic and courageous vision will require us to be continuously countercultural in our 
approach to being "church." Among other things, this will require MCC congregations to 
move beyond the uncritical adoption of theologies, liturgies, and normative structures of 
dominant hetero-patriarchal Christian denominations invested in the status quo. 

One important resource for this work can be found in the emerging field of queer 
theology, which is shaped by the experiences of liberation and spiritual transformation of 
those who have been marginalized due to their sexuality and/or gender. I believe queer 
theology, if it can successfully be integrated with congregational praxis, holds as much 
potential to liberate our churches as it has liberated many LGBT people. In this thesis, I 

Metropolitan Community Churches, (accessed November 10, 2007). 

hope to help pastors and leaders understand queer theology so that they may use it as a 
tool for analysis and reflection, and intentionally plan its integration in daily 
congregational life. 

To that end, I will begin with a task I wish were unnecessary — that of defining 
the word "queer." Because queer is still a contentious word for many of our 
congregations as a whole, and for many individuals even within congregations that have 
managed to redeem the word and make it normative, I will spend time in Chapter 1 
charting the evolution of the word queer, explaining some of the potential benefits of 
applying queer theory, and being as clear as possible about how I will use the word 
throughout this project. In Chapter 2, 1 will explore the emerging field of queer theology, 
including the attempt to describe some core values and strategies it employs. In Chapter 
3, 1 will make a case for the need to integrate queer theology in congregational life, 
including noting some troublesome examples when this integration has not been the case. 
Finally, in chapter 4, 1 will take a focused look at the question of leading congregational 
change, since I understand this to be one of the primary areas requiring the attention of 
pastors and leaders in MCC. 

My original hope when planning this project was that I could go far enough to 
suggest how queer theology might affect everything from how we read, preach, and teach 
scripture to how we run board meetings and prepare budgets. That goal was overly 
ambitious, as I confess I am wont to be. My revised goal is simply to make a 

I will use "pastors" and "leaders" interchangeably in this work because I want to acknowledge 
that while this is an essential calling of pastors, this is not a question or concern limited to the ordained 
professional clergy. Although pastors are often given responsibility for the types of issues we will discuss, 
lay leaders are as important and integral to the success of this process in congregations. 

contribution to the conversation taking place in MCC about how we can practically 
recognize and draw upon our unique perspectives and strengths, of which I believe queer 
theology to be a primary tool, in order to live faithfully into our vision. I hope this may 
also serve as a resource for bridging the gap between the clergy and the laity, between the 
jargon of the academy and the language on the streets/in the pews, between erudite 
talking heads and passionate working hearts. These false dichotomies exist both within 
and between us, and it is only by transcending them that we can do this work. 


It is important to begin with the acknowledgement that a significant learning 
curve exists between the individual members and leaders of local MCC congregations 
and the emerging conversations about queer theology among academicians, theologians, 
theorists, and practitioners. Before we can move the conversations beyond the hallowed 
halls of seminaries or the pristine pages of professional journals in order for it to have 
practical impact on the day-to-day life of congregations, we must define core terms and 
concepts so that we can establish a common vocabulary for this broader dialogue. For 
better or worse, the first place we have to start is with the word queer. 

In contemporary discussions of sexuality, the word queer has a variety of 
definitions and usages: from pejorative slurs against sexual/gender minorities to an 
umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons to the 
descriptor of a particular intellectual theory. Even in MCC congregations, whose 
members are primarily (though not exclusively) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or 
otherwise queer-identified persons, use of the word queer is contentious. Not all people 
share the same understanding of its meaning; use of the word triggers various emotional 
responses; and there is hardly a unanimous embrace of the term as an adequate descriptor 
of LGBT people or our churches. Therefore, in order to mine the potential of queer 
theology, it is necessary to carefully define the word queer in order to remove obstacles 
and advance the conversation. In this chapter, I will outline the variable definitions and 
usages of queer, as well as survey the historical contexts that shaped them. I will 

conclude by specifying the ways in which I will personally use the word throughout this 

The Evolution of a Word 

Reclaiming a Word with Rotten Roots 

The word queer, as it relates to contemporary discussions of sexuality, is rooted in 
its usage as a pejorative slur referring to particular individuals who did not conform to 
societal sex/gender norms. There is some evidence that the word queer, traditionally 
referring to that which "differed in some way from what is usual or normal," was used 
by some homosexual men in the 1910's and 1920's to describe themselves. George 
Chauncey observed that in pre- World War II New York, men whose sexual interests 
differentiated them from other men would usually call themselves queer. However, by 
far the most prominent early usage of the word to refer to those with same-sex attractions 
or non-normative expressions of gender was as a derogatory epithet hurled by others, not 
as a self-proclaimed identity. The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality indicates that in 
twentieth-century America, "queer has probably been the most popular vernacular term 


Mernam- Webster Online Dictionary, (accessed February 2, 2006). 

George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male 
World, 1890 - 1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 101. It is worthy of note that the source of this 
differentiation was generally not the biological sex of their sexual partners, but rather the gender role they 
assumed in those relationships (i.e., a "feminine" gender presentation). For a fuller explanation, see 
George Chauncey, "Christian Brotherhood or Sexual Perversion? Homosexual Identities and the 
Construction of Sexual Boundaries in the World War I Era," in Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay 
and Lesbian Past, ed. Martin Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey Jr. (New York: 
NAL Books, 1989), 297. 

of abuse for homosexuals."' This harmful use of the word queer is still felt by a number 

of people today. Judith Butler, one of the pioneers of the contemporary queer 

theory/studies movement, describes her own experience of the word's harmful origins: 

Consider the word queer, which thirty years ago (even twenty, even fifteen ago) 
was considered profoundly derogatory and frightening as a speech act. I 
remember living in an era of great fear of the word, knowing I was eligible for it, 
thinking that once it actually landed on me I would be branded forever and that 
the stigma would do me in completely. 

Butler's experience is hardly isolated or unique. Those whose minds and bodies bear the 
memory of "queer" being used against them or those they love to stigmatize and harm are 
very vocal in expressing their dislike of the word still today. In my work as the pastor of 
a predominantly LGBT congregation, for example, I have had many conversations with 
people who resist the use of this word. In 2005, my congregation conducted some 
strategic visioning work as we explored again questions about our unique identity, 
character, and calling as a community. Following this work, they voted overwhelmingly 
to modify our mission statement, in part, by replacing the words "lesbian, gay, bisexual, 
and transgender people as well as our families, friends, and allies" with the words "queer 
and queer-friendly people." The dialogue about this was extensive, and a few members 
of the community (primarily individuals of fifty years of age or older) agreed to the 
change only reluctantly, expressing the pain they still felt was associated with queer. It is 

Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, ed. Wayne R. Dynes (Garland, NY: Taylor & Francis, 1990), 

6 Judith Butler, "Changing the Subject: Judith Butler's Politics of Radical Resignification," 
interview with Gary A. Olson and Lynn Worsham, in The Judith Butler Reader, ed. Sara Salih with Judith 
Butler (Maiden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 351. (Italics in original.) 

also worth noting that, at the time, some enlightened straight-identified members of the 

community were also hesitant to use the word, not wanting to participate in harmful 


However, many others have sought to "reclaim" the word from its derogatory 

roots and use it for personal empowerment. Butler herself went through such a 

transformation of thought regarding the word queer. 

Ten or twelve years ago when queer started to happen as a term, people would 
ask, "What do you think, should we produce a journal called Queer Theory?'' 1 I 
thought, "My God, do we have to use that word?" I was still in its grip. I was 
still thinking, "Must we take on this word? Isn't it too injurious? Why do we 
need to repeat it at all?" I still think that there are words that are in fact so 
injurious that it's very hard to imagine that they could be repeated in a productive 
way; however, I did note that using the word queer again and again as part of an 
affirmative practice in certain contexts helped take it out of an established context 
of being exclusively injurious, and it became about reclaiming language, about a 
certain type of courage, about a certain kind of opening up of the term, about the 


possibility of transforming stigmatization into something more celebratory. 

The attempt to reclaim the word queer as a value-positive and empowering word 
is a task held in common by all of the definitions and uses of the term included here. 
However, it is important to explicitly maintain the memory of the earlier and defamatory 
uses of the word. This history not only matters to those who continue to bear wounds 
associated with it, but it is also integral to the continued evolution of the word as well as 
the individuals, ideas, and interests it represents. 


Judy Grahn, Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds (Updated and Expanded; Boston: 
Beacon Press, 1990), 90. Grahn's work attempts to reclaim a number of gay and lesbian epithets in a 
comparative cultural study. On the topic of reclaiming epithets as words of empowerment, see also Julia 
Penelope, Call Me Lesbian: Lesbian Lives, Lesbian Theory (Freedom, California: Crossing Press, 1992). 

8 Butler, "Changing the Subject," 351. (Italics in original.) 

An Expanding Umbrella 

A popular, yet somewhat controversial, use of the word queer is "as an umbrella 
term for a number of dissimilar subjects, whose collectivity is underwritten by mutual 
engagement in non-normative sexual practices or identities." ' Queer in this sense may be 
used to refer to gays and lesbians as well as bisexual and transgender persons. For some, 
this makes queer a "coalition word" that brings these diverse people together, usually for 
the purposes of political solidarity and action. 10 As the need for political coalitions has 
grown in recent decades, the specific categories of "identity" included in the term queer 
have likewise expanded. 1 1 

While this use of the word queer is favored by many who find it less cumbersome 
than an ever-expanding acronym (i.e., LGBTIQA ) or series of sexual/gender identities, 
it is critiqued by those who claim it blurs necessary distinctions that exist among and 
between these disparate groups. For example, David Phillips argues that 

9 Annamarie Jagose, Queer Theory: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 
1996), 111-112. 

Robert Goss, Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto (San Francisco: 
HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), 39. At the time this book was published, the author referred only to gays and 
lesbians, not bisexual or transgender individuals. In more recent works, Goss explicitly includes these 
categories of people. This is indicative of the expanding nature of the term queer, which directly follows 
the expansion of the articulated categories of sexual and gender differentiation that have generally come to 
be included in the gay and lesbian liberation movement. 

It should be explicitly noted, however, that is has never expanded quite enough to be truly 
inclusive. Even as various groups are added, there always exist others who are not mentioned and whose 
particular interests are not included. 

This partial list generally refers to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex 
persons, along with those who are either questioning (yet to claim a sexual orientation or identity) or queer 
(in the sense I will later define of transgressing all of these categories), as well as allies in the liberation 


the inclusionist ambitions of queer — the attempt to represent not only gays and 
lesbians, transgenderists, and even heterosexuals as 'straight identified queers', et 
cetera — has had the effect of not only effacing the specific political identities, 
needs and agendas of these various groups but that, in doing so, queer has 
produced a new closet as any specific self-identification as either gay or lesbian 
(predicated upon same-sex practices) is disavowed. 

Lesbian feminists also raise a particular critique that this umbrella use of the term 
queer, as the similar and earlier use of the term "gay" to refer to both homosexual men 
and women, threatens to silence the specific voice and concerns of women. For example, 
in Adrienne Rich's widely quoted essay, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian 
Existence," she claims that because lesbianism can be best understood in terms of 
categories of gender, lesbians are necessarily distanced from full affiliation with gay 


Lesbians have historically been deprived of a political existence through 
"inclusion" as female versions of male homosexuality. To equate lesbian 
existence with male homosexuality because each is stigmatized is to erase female 
reality once again. ... But there are differences: women's lack of economic and 
cultural privilege relative to men; qualitative differences in female and male 
relationships — for example, the patterns of anonymous sex among male 
homosexuals, and the pronounced ageism in male homosexual standards of sexual 
attractiveness. I perceive the lesbian experience as being, like motherhood, a 
profoundly female experience, with particular oppressions, meanings, and 
potentialities we cannot comprehend as long as we simply bracket it with other 
sexually stigmatized existences. 14 

While Rich's critique predates the contemporary debate about the word "queer," it 
certainly remains germane to these discussions. I include it here because it strikes at the 

13 David Phillips (1994), "What's So Queer Here? Photography at the Gay and Lesbian Marti 
Gras," Eyeline 26, pp. 16-19, as quoted in Jagose, 112. 


Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," Signs: Journal of Women 

in Culture and Society 5 (summer 1980). (Italics in original.) 

heart of the feminist critique about the assumption of "lesbian" into any broader category, 
especially those including men, which has remained a largely consistent argument. 

Similar arguments are occasionally raised by bisexuals, as well as transgender 
persons. However, in the latter case, there appears to be much more willingness to notice 
the complex relationships between sex and gender that label all of us queer if we 
transgress sex/gender norms in any way. For example, transgender activist Leslie 
Feinberg argues that "while the lesbian, gay, bi, and trans populations do not experience 
identical oppressions, or voice the same grievances or demands, in the current-day United 
States, our communities have been strengthened by forming coalitions ...." 

In spite of the critique offered by feminists and others, the word queer is gaining 
prominence in its popular usage as just such an umbrella term. It is also worthy of note 
that this usage often occurs quite apart from academic discourse about queer theory, to 
which I will soon turn. Suffice it to say at this juncture that this popular use of the word 
queer as an umbrella term does not necessarily include those whose expression of gender 
and/or sexuality might be considered "non-normative sexualities," such as sado- 
masochism, pornography, butch/fem, certain trans- practices, prostitution, polyamory, or 

1 f\ 

intergenerational sex. 

15 Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman 
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), 98. 

Jagose, 64. (Emphasis mine.) In practice, many people who are open about sexual practices like 
these are often explicitly or implicitly shunned or excluded from queer-identified communities. Often, this 
is motivated by religiously-based judgmentalism, and/or an unwillingness to enter deeply into complex 
discussions about sexual ethics, which includes questioning the automatic assumptions about what is or is 
not ethical as determined by the dominant and dominating forces of hetero-patriarchal normativity. 


The Liberation Movements 

No discussion about the contemporary definition or use of the word queer is 
complete without at least a brief historical survey of gay and lesbian liberation 
movements in the past several decades. As impossible as it is to completely describe 
something as nebulous as the evolution of these movements, they are the direct 
precursors to modern academic gender/queer theories, as well as major influences on the 

1 7 

present-day political and ecclesial context. Therefore, they constitute a necessary 
knowledge base for full engagement of the queer question. 

We might begin by acknowledging that current conversations about sexuality and 
gender, in general, and homosexuality, in particular, are a relatively recent phenomenon. 
So, while many scholars of diverse disciplines have theorized about the existence of 
same-sex behavior in all periods of history, efforts to recapture a "gay past" are, at best, 

1 X 

problematic. However, once "homosexual" crystallized as an "identity" (i.e., when one 
could conceive of actually being a homosexual instead of simply participating in same- 

1 7 

I refer here primarily to the United States, though some parallels may exist particularly in other 
countries heavily influenced by Western thought and tradition. While there is great need to address these 
questions in other world contexts, it is beyond the scope of my current inquiry. Excellent work is being 
done, however, by a number of scholars, including these recently consulted works: Rose Wu, Seeking An 
Alternative Interpretation of Theology and Ministry with Sexual Minorities in Hong Kong: A Prophetic 
Vision of a Liberating and Inclusive Christian Community, (D.Min. Thesis, Episcopal Divinity School, 
1988), as well as a number of articles in A Queer World: The Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies Reader, 
ed. Martin Duberman (New York: New York University Press, 1997) and Hidden from History: 
Reclaiming the Gay & Lesbian Past. 

1 R 

Robert Padgug, "Sexual Matters: Rethinking Sexuality in History, ,, in Hidden from History: 
Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, 54-64. Padgug argues against scholars like John Boswell, who 
attempt to retroject a sense of homosexual or gay identity into historical contexts that had no such concepts. 
This raises what is still an important distinction between sexual or gendered behavior and the question of 
whether or not any sort of fixed identity flows from that behavior. 


sex acts), religious and legal persecution against homosexuals began to increase. 19 
Consequently, there quickly emerged a reactive movement that sought to recognize 
homosexuality as a natural human phenomenon. Prior to this time, medical and 
scientific communities directed the primary discourse about homosexuality, usually by 
pathologizing it and treating it as a disorder. 

Homophile Movement 

Homophile organizations began to emerge as an organized protest of this anti- 
homosexual persecution and institutionalized prejudice. The first such organization, the 
Scientific Humanitarian Committee, was founded in 1897 by German neurologist 
Magnus Hirschfield. The primary aim of this group was to affect legislative change by 
altering the penal code. Hirschfield argued that because homosexuality was both 
congenital and harmless, its criminalization caused the needless suffering of 

The earliest recorded homophile organization in the United States, the Chicago 
Society for Human Rights, had similar goals. The 1924 charter outlined a desire to 

19 Jagose, 23. 

20 Ibid., 22. 

9 1 

The use of the word homophile was intended to (a) move away from an exclusive focus on 

sex" and (b) avoid association with the medical diagnosis of homosexuality as a disorder. 


John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement, 1864- J 935 (Rev. 

Edition; Ojai, California: Times Change Press, 1995). As quoted in Jagose, 23. 


"promote and protect the interests" of homosexuals. Much more significant were later 
homophile organizations like the Mattachine Society (for men) and the Daughters of 
Bilitis (for women), founded in 1951 and 1955, respectively. Both organizations sought 
equal rights by mobilizing their constituencies through a process of "fostering collective 
identity among homosexuals," including community education and support aimed at 
asserting the normality of same-sex attraction. Both organizations tended to distance 
themselves from persons whose behavior or identity threatened to compromise their 


ability to assimilate. Both organizations ultimately struggled to maintain an active 
membership, though their work was foundational for the next evolution in the liberation 

!3 Jagose, 24. It is worthy of mention that one of the strategies employed by this organization was 
to admit that homosexuals have "mental and psychic abnormalities." This demonstrates the nascent 
beginnings of a movement still dominated by the projections placed upon it by the medical/scientific 
community. While it is easy and tempting to critique this approach from a modern or postmodern 
perspective, this may illustrate a quite natural evolutionary progression in the gay liberation movement. 

24 Ibid., 25. 

Ibid., 24-27. This assimilationist/accomodationist strategy was predicated on the argument that 
homosexuals are "just like everyone else" and therefore, deserve the same rights afforded to others. While 
there are many legitimate present-day critiques of this strategy, it is arguably a politically efficacious one. 
In fact, the same strategy is still being employed by those who advocate for same-sex marriage rights today. 
I recently participated in a "Lobby Day" for Equality at the Virginia legislature. Much of the printed 
material and public statements of contemporary LGBT activists (I use LGBT — not queer — intentionally 
because it most accurately describes the character, interests, and strategy of these activists, in my 
experience) is remarkably similar to the promotional literature of these early homophile organizations. The 
continuity of current same-sex marriage advocates with these early groups (to which I will later return) 
might also be evidenced by the fact Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, were 
the first same-sex couple in the United States to have their marriage recognized by a government entity in 

Ibid., 24-27. This included anyone who transgressed notions of gender propriety, such as drag 
queens or butch women. In the case of the Daughters of Bilitis, this was also true of "working class dykes" 
whose sense of community often centered on the bar scene. 


Gay Liberation 

It is generally agreed that a new era in gay liberation was initiated in June of 

1969. When police raided the Stone Wall Inn, a New York gay and drag bar, patrons 

resisted arrest. Consequently, several days of public riots ensued. Thus, 

Stonewall functions in a symbolic register as a convenient if somewhat spurious 
marker of an important cultural shift away from assimilationist politics and 
quietist tactics, a significant if mythological date for the origins of the gay 
liberation movement. 

While there were other events that previewed this shift, the Stonewall Riot was uniquely 
able to inspire a nationwide grass-roots movement. Drawing on the success of other such 
militant movements (e.g., black militants as well as new left, antiwar, and student 
movements), gays entered a period characterized by "coming out" as an in-your-face 


political strategy. 

Gay liberationists were no longer content to work for tolerance and acceptance; 
instead, they sought to challenge conventional knowledge about sex, gender, monogamy, 
and the sanctity of the law. Many liberationists took great pride in scandalizing society 
with the difference their "gay identity" signaled, eschewing any attempts to gain 
legitimacy through claims of sameness. 

27 Ibid., 30. 

John D'Emilio, "Gay Politics and Community in San Francisco Since World War II," in Hidden 
from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, ed. Martin Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and 
George Chauncey, Jr. (New York: NAL Books, 1989), 466. See also Denis Altman, Homosexual: 
Oppression and Liberation (New introduction by Jeffrey Weeks; New York: New York University Press, 

29 Jagose, 3 1 . 


A gay identity was a revolutionary identity: what it sought was not social 
recognition but to overthrow the social institutions that pathologized 
homosexuality. In so far as homosexuality did not conform to normative 
understandings of sex and gender, in liberationist discourse it was often 
represented as heralding the subversion of those categories, and enabling a new 
and unmediated sexuality for all people. 

Lesbian Feminism 

While small numbers of women were always present in the early homophile and 

gay liberation movements, others believed these movements were insensitive to the 

unique role gender played in their work and political advocacy. As Jeffrey Weeks asserts, 

Lesbians and gays are not two genders within one sexual category. They have 
different histories, which are differentiated because of the complex organization 

•2 1 

of male and female identities, precisely along the lines of gender. 

As an alternative to what they considered the androcentric nature of the gay liberation 
movement, some women found the burgeoning women's movement a more suitable 
venue for their activism and advocacy. However, the women's movement was often 
intolerant of the specific concerns of lesbians. For example, the largest and most 
influential women's liberation group in the United States (i.e., the National Organization 
for Women) often expected those lesbians who were involved in the organization to keep 
their sexuality secretive since it was potentially damaging. 

30 Ibid., 37. 

Jeffrey Weeks, Sexuality and its Discontents: Meanings, Myths, & Modern Sexualities (Boston: 
Routlege & K. Paul, 1985), 203. 

32 Jagose, 46. 


The lesbian feminist movement was bom at the intersection of competing -isms, 
namely, the sexism lesbians observed in the gay liberation movement and the 
hetero sexism they found in the women's liberation movement By no means united about 
their direction, or even the question of what constitutes a "lesbian identir . esbians 
began to as sen their ability and responsibility to self-detennination in these matters."" 
S everal lesbian feminist organizations "ere formed as a result, including the 
Radicalesbians in New York, the Furies Collective in Washington. D.C.. and Gay 
Women's Liberation in San Franciscc 

Adrienne Rich's previously cited essay on "Compulsory Heterosexuality and 
Lesbian Existence" 1 ° S : j > was a semmal v. ?-k ::: lesbian femmism She arauea ma: 
because :■: me complex ar.a msiclic as narme :: sexasrr i. gender musr be me pram an 
identification category" for lesbians instead of sexuality. Rich la:er amends mas view in a 
footnote added la me essay in 1986. in which she states. **I now think we have much to 
learn from both the uniquely female aspects of lesbian Experience ana from ne complex 
'gay identity we share with gay men 

Not all lesbian feminists experienced the same evolution in thought. In fan. mere 
remain a number ;: lesbian feminists '.vac argue ma: affinity ber.veen lesbians ana ga; 
males is an impossibility, precise!) because aa. males are cc mnlici: mm aamaamn a 

- * 

structures of male domination."' 7 eraars me mcs: .en em en: aa ;a:e : mas r ; sunn is 

- - - - — . - 

' :::: . --" 

: s . j - t 

'.:- : 


Sheila Jeffreys, who argues passionately and often that gay men, even more so than 
straight men, epitomize patriarchal values and male supremacy. ' This point of view 
grows out of the early separatist agenda of certain lesbian feminists and takes it to a 
whole new level. 

The Impact of AIDS 

The emergence of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s impacted the liberation 
movements considerably. Due to many factors, not the least of which was the persistent 
misrecognition of AIDS as a "gay disease" in the public sphere, anti-gay and homophobic 
forces were emboldened. The few newly acquired citizenship rights that the liberation 
movements had managed to secure for gays and lesbians were under fierce attack. 
Additionally, the incredibly devastating impact that the HIV/AIDS crisis had on the 
homosexual communities, particularly in urban areas, led to new alliances between gay 
men and lesbians as well as new partnerships between (some) government agencies and 
gay and lesbian communities. 

One noticeable contribution that AIDS made to discussions about sexuality and 
gender in general was the need to be publicly explicit. In other words, as Lauren Berlant 

Sheila Jeffreys, The Lesbian Heresy: a Feminist Perspective on the Lesbian Sexual Revolution 
(Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex, 1993). 

38 Jagose, 94. 

Barry D. Adam, "From Liberation to Transgression and Beyond: Gay, Lesbian and Queer 
Studies at the Turn of the Century," in Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Thousand Oaks, California: 
SAGE, 2002), 17. 


and Michael Warner observe, AIDS forced discourse about sexuality itself out of the 


AIDS ... forced the issue of translating queerness into the national scene. AIDS 
made those of us who confronted it realize the deadly stakes of discourse; it made 
us realize the public and private unvoiceability of so much that mattered, about 
anger, mourning, and desire; and it made us realize that different frames of 
reference — science, news, religion, ordinary homophobia — compete and that 
their disjunction is lethal .... AIDS taught us the need to be disconcertingly 
explicit about such things as money and sexual practices, for as long as 
euphemism and indirection produce harm and privilege. 

Shifting Political Strategies 

The last two decades of the twentieth century included at least two simultaneous 
and contradictory trajectories of the liberation movements. On the one hand was the 
direct descendant of Stonewall style gay liberation, perhaps best epitomized in the radical 
confrontationist strategy of certain AIDS activists. The optimum and earliest example of 
this was the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), formed in 1987 by those who 
were outraged at the United States government's mismanagement of the AIDS crisis. 
ACT UP aimed to help people harness their anger at their own oppression and funnel it 
into a practice of solidarity for social change. The result was a series of angry, vocal 
protests of governmental, religious, and public leaders and institutions deemed complicit 

40 Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, "What Does Queer Theory Teach Us About X?," 
Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (PMLA) 110, no. 3 (May 1995): 345. 

"ACT UP Capsule History," (accessed 
February 11,2006). 

Goss, Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto, 56. 


in the growing AIDS crisis. 4 This urgent political strategy was also embraced by groups 
like Queer Nation, formed in 1990 by members of ACT UP who were victims of anti-gay 
violence. Queer Nation's popular protest slogan "We're here, we're queer, get used to 
it!" illustrates the group's desire to reclaim the word queer as a value-positive term as 
well as their unapologetic approach of rowdy sexual openness and radical 
confrontation. 44 

On the other hand was a retreat to strategies similar to earlier homophile 
movements by moving away from militant confrontation and radicalism. 45 In direct 
opposition to the politics of groups like ACT UP and Queer Nation, these reformist 
movements sought a quieter and gentler approach to influencing social change. Realizing 
that "the political strategies that proved most viable in liberal, democratic societies were 
typically civil rights arguments reliant on judicial and legislative reform," this brand of 
gay and lesbian politics became "more domesticated" and "mature" and relied on 
homosexuality being constructed as a minority category parallel to ethnic minorities. 4 
Groups such as the Human Rights Campaign 47 and the National Gay and Lesbian 
Taskforce are perhaps the best examples of this trajectory in the liberation movements. 

43 The popular protest chant, "ACT UP, FIGHT BACK, FIGHTS AIDS," sums up the general 
sentiments of the group as well as their style of engagement. 

Susan Stryker, "Queer Nation," December 2004, glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, 
Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, 
(accessed February 11, 2006). 

45 Adam, 16. 

46 Ibid., 17. 

Human Rights Campaign Official Website, (accessed February 1 1 , 2006). 

National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce Official Website, (accessed 
February 11,2006). 


The Contribution of Queer Theory 

Alongside — yet often quite disconnected from — the evolution of the political 

aspirations and strategies of the various liberation movements, a significant discussion 

about sexuality and gender took place inside the academy. Gay and lesbian studies 

emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as a distinct field of intellectual inquiry and research, 

which was characterized initially by a flurry of excited interest in recovering a lost 

"history." 49 This research was largely predicated upon the essentialist assumption that 

there was a discoverable homosexual throughout history and around the world. Very 

quickly, the limits and shortcomings of this essentialism became clear. Other social 

constructionist scholars, building on the seminal work of Michel Foucault, observed 

that while same-sex expressions of desire may be seen throughout history, they vary 

widely depending on their social and historical contexts and cannot be considered 

synonymous with the modern sense of homosexuality as an identity. l In the words of 

Laurel Schneider, 

The question is not whether sexual love between same-sex partners has occurred 
throughout history (because it surely has) but whether sexual desire, love, and 
activity alone constitute a sexual identity. 

49 Adam, 17. 

50 Perhaps the most well known historian to adopt this approach is John Boswell. 

51 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (1st American Ed.; New York: 
Pantheon Books, 1978). 

52 Weeks, 203. 

Laurel Schneider, "Queer Theory," in Handbook of Postmodern Biblical Interpretation, ed. A. 
K. A. Adam (St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2000), 208. 


These debates about the existence, viability, and efficacy of any essential "identity" 

began to dominate academic discourse. Queer theory is the latest development in this 


Queer theory, as a distinct discipline, was set in motion in 1990 by the pioneering 

work of Judith Butler. 54 Relying heavily on the theories of Foucault, Butler demonstrates 

the ways in which marginalized identities are complicit with the very regimes they seek 

to critique and counter (i.e., patriarchy and heterosexism). Specifically, she claims that 

feminism works against its own explicit goals if it accepts the category "woman" as its 

foundational grouping. She writes: 

The cultural matrix through which gender identity has become "intelligible" 
requires that certain kinds of "identities" cannot "exist" — that is, those in which 
gender does not follow from sex and those in which the practices of desire do not 
"follow" from either sex or gender. 

Butler's critique of gender as "a regulatory construct that privileges heterosexuality" not 
only presents a challenge to feminism, but also to any other liberation movement that 



relies on claims of an essential or unified gender/sexual identity in need of liberation. 
Therefore, whereas both the lesbian and gay liberation movements "were committed 
fundamentally to the notion of identity politics in assuming identity as the necessary 

54 Adam, 18. 

55 Jagose, 83. 

>6 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 

1990), 17. 

>7 Jagose, 83. 


prerequisite for effective political intervention," queer theory deconstructs and exposes as 


fictitious any such categories of identification. 

The word queer, as it is used in queer theory, is a term that ultimately resists all 
attempts at its own definition. Berlant and Warner offer what they call a "kind of anti- 
encyclopedia entry" for the word: "queer theory is not the theory of anything in particular 
and has no precise bibliographic shape." 59 Even so, certain things can be said about 
queer theory. In addition to noting that a constant feature of queer theory is its critique of 
identity politics, Laurel Schneider observes, "Queer theory is not just for or about so- 
called homosexuals. It is critical theory concerned principally with cultural deployments 
of power through social constructions of sexuality and gender." 60 Obviously, the roots of 
this concern are evident in queer's historical evolution from gay and lesbian liberation as 
well as in feminist studies, which are likewise concerned precisely with this critique of 
"normative" sex/gender constructs. Queer theory comes into its own and becomes most 
useful, however, when its hermeneutic is applied to subjects, expressions, and cultures 
that are presumed to be general or natural, but are, in fact, riddled with the assumptions 
of heteropatriarchal normativity. For example, using the term "queer commentary" to 
refer to a body of literary work that applies the hermeneutic of queer theory, Berlant and 
Warner write: 

We can say that queer commentary has been animated by a sense of belonging to 
a discourse world that only partly exists yet. This work aspires to create publics, 
publics that can afford sex and intimacy in sustained, unchastening ways; publics 

58 Ibid., 77. 

59 Berlant and Warner, 344. 

60 Schneider, 206. 


that can comprehend their own differences of privilege and struggle; publics 
whose abstract spaces can also be lived in, remembered, hoped for. By publics 
we do not mean populations of self-identified queers. Nor is the name queer an 
umbrella term for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered. Queer publics 
make available different understandings of membership at different times, and 
membership in them is more a matter of aspiration than it is the expression of an 
identity or a history. Through a wide range of mongrelized genres and media, 
queer commentary allows a lot of unpredictability in the culture it brings into 
being. 61 

As soon as one attempts to define queer, then, its definition becomes unstable. 
Unwilling to be domesticated, queer is a transgressive term always pushing the margins, 
always rendering any essential categories of identity ambiguous, always seeking to 
"address the full range of power-ridden normativities of sex." " Queer is a versatile word 
used alternately as an adjective to describe certain theories and strategies, as a noun to 
represent a certain body of work or even certain boundary-blurring people/publics, and as 
a verb to describe the intent to "mess with" and deconstruct any normative 
understandings of sexuality, gender, and relationship that claim to be self-evident or 

It should be explicitly noted that the queer project's critique of identity politics 
has a sharp edge for many who are invested in contemporary gay and lesbian liberation 
movements. Specifically, queer calls into question the creation of any new norms that 
would legitimate persons with same-sex attractions or their relationships by uncritically 
buying into the systems and constructs that maintain and mimic the foundations of 
heterosexist privilege. " The current push for same-sex marriage equality is perhaps the 

61 Berlant and Warner, 344. 

62 Ibid., 346. 

63 Jagose, 92. 


best and most readily accessible example. In partial critique of the agenda to gain same- 
sex couples the right to marry, some feminist and queer scholars, like Mary Hunt, have 
argued that gays and lesbians (and all people) may be better served by the open challenge 
of the "broken model" of heterosexual marriage as it exists today, with its accompanying 
social and economic privileges as well as its soaring divorce rates, rather than the 
creation of a new hegemony that would force all relationships (homo- or hetero-sexual) 
into this broken and binary model. 64 This is a wonderful example of the ways in which 
the queer project might be used to creatively expand the discussion beyond specific 
identity-based "individual rights campaigns" (i.e., civil rights) to include the broader goal 
of relational justice for all (i.e., human rights). 65 

One of the most promising contributions of queer seems to be just such an 
expansive application of its theory. As queer is occasionally venturing beyond a 
predominant focus on issues of sexuality, it is also offering a helpful critique of other 
identities aside from sex and gender. For example, Eve Sedgwick claims that recent 
queer work is moving outward 

along dimensions that can't be subsumed under gender and sexuality at all: the 
ways that race, ethnicity, postcolonial nationality criss-cross with these and other 
identity-constituting, identity-fracturing discourses, for example. Intellectuals and 
artists of color whose sexual self-definition includes "queer" ... are using the 
leverage of "queer" to do a new kind of justice to the fractal intricacies of 
language, skin, migration, and state. 


"Roundtable Discussion: Same-Sex Marriage," Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 20, no. 2 

65 Mary Hunt, "Roundtable Discussion: Same-Sex Marriage," 91. 
As quoted in Jagose, 99. (Italics in original.) 


Though not always an explicit objective of queer theorists, the cause of creating more just 

relationships and a more just society in which power can be equally accessible and 

mutually shared seems central to some of queer theory's newer trends. In refusing to be 

compartmentalized and resisting whatever might be considered normal, queer theory 

hopes to bring a new world into being, one in which multiple identities and ways of being 

can be valued without individuals having to conform to fixed notions that necessarily 

exclude those who cannot or choose not to do so. 

However, there are also some legitimate critiques made about queer theory that 

question its ability to live into this more expansive potential. For example, while 

acknowledging "the radical potential of queerness to challenge and bring together all 

those deemed marginal and all those committed to liberatory politics," Cathy J. Cohen 

argues that the "problem . . . with such a conceptualization and expectation of queer 

identity and politics is that in its present form queer politics has not emerged as an 

encompassing challenge to systems of domination and oppression." Namely, it has 

tended to ignore or elide issues of race, class, and (to some extent) gender as distinct 

categories of identity within the queer community. Cohen, who personally finds the 

word queer "fraught with unspoken assumptions that inhibit [its] radical potential," warns, 

In its current rendition, queer politics is coded with class, gender, and race 
privilege, and may have lost its potential to be a politically expedient organizing 
tool for addressing the needs — and mobilizing the bodies — of people of color. 

67 Cathy J. Cohen, "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer 
Politics?" in Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 24. 

68 Ibid. 34-35. 


Cohen's point is well made. The radical potential of queer must include a sustained 
analysis and understanding of the intersectionality of identities and oppressions that 
characterize the reality and messiness of life for individuals. In an effort to foreground 
this urgent objective, E. Patrick Johnson has coined the word "quare" (based on his 
grandmother's "thick, black, southern" vernacular pronunciation of queer) "to critique 
stable notions of identity and, at the same time, to locate racialized and class 
knowledges. " Johnson values the "inclusivity and playful spirit" of queer, but wants to 
counteract its "homogenizing tendencies" that obscure the realities of racism, classism, 
and sexism operative in the queer community. While appreciating Johnson's use of 
"quare" and wholeheartedly agreeing with both his and Cohen's call to examine and deal 
with the unchecked racism, classism, and sexism present in much queer theorizing, I 
cannot yet disregard queer as a useful term. I am not yet ready to abandon the idealism 
of its radical aspirations, for one thing, and the term "quare" is so new and unfamiliar that 
its introduction in the day-to-day life of my congregation would hinder what progress we 
are making to establish a shared vocabulary for genuine conversation and dialogue. That 
being said, I am fully supportive of the agenda behind the use of "quare" and am 
committed to openly discussing the complex intersections of heterosexism, sexism, 
racism, and classism (among forms of oppression) that exist. Irene Monroe offers one 
concrete example: 

69 E. Patrick Johnson, "'Quare' Studies, Or (almost) Everything I Know about Queer Studies I 
Learned from My Grandmother," in Black Queer Studies : A Critical Anthology (Durham, NC: Duke 
University Press, 2005), 126-7. (Italics for emphasis.) 

70 Ibid. 127. 


As a fractured group both politically and socially, African-American LGBT 
people reside as resident aliens who too often live bifurcated existences in both 
communities. While our black skin ostensibly gives us residence in our black 
communities, our sexual orientation, most times, evicts us from them. And while 
our sexual orientation gives us residence in the larger LGBT community, racism 
constantly thwarts any efforts for coalition building, which weakens the larger 
movement for sexual equality. 

In articulating these experiences, LGBT people of color are raising a necessary and 
critical challenge to queer discourse by insisting that we understand how these multiple 
sites of identity and oppression complicate our coalition building and frustrate our 
cooperative work for justice. I believe this work must become an integral focus of the 
queer project. 

In My Own Words 

Because I am interested in investigating what a broadly applied "queer theology" 
would look like in the day-to-day life of an individual faith congregation, it is imperative 
that I am able to describe exactly what / mean by queer. At one time or another, I have 
probably used queer in all of the senses outlined above, with the notable exception of 
using it pejoratively in order to shame and denigrate those marginalized by their 
sexual/gender expression or identity. Because I live and work in multiple contexts and 
am in conversation with multiple and diverse communities of discourse, I continue to use 
the word queer in different ways according to context and suitability. I try to be explicit 
about how I'm using the word when this is happening, or at least to remain mindful 

*7 1 

"African-American LGBT People Saying it Loud," in The Witness [database online]. Cambridge, 
Massachusetts June 11, 2002 (accessed January 21, 2007). Available from 


myself of both its intended and actual effect. For example, when I am preaching, I 
often use the word "queer" instead of "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc." because 
in my congregation, for some, this word still needs to be liberated and because I want to 
encourage those who are able to explore the limitations of these individual identity labels 
(LGBT) to do so. In many ways, the act of "reclaiming" the word must necessarily 
precede any further dialogue about its other meanings and their potential applications. 

I typically do not intend to use the word queer only as a broad umbrella for LGBT 
persons, though I am somewhat comfortable with this usage because — for better or 
worse — this is a common and widely accepted use in the vernacular of a number of 
communities, including many MCC congregations. Additionally, the more edgy use of 
the term (to which I will soon turn) does not seem to preclude it. In my current context 
(i.e., twenty- first century United States), if someone identifies as a lesbian, gay man, or 
bisexual or transgender person, they necessarily transgress and live outside the realm of 
what is considered normative. Therefore, queer can be used for all of these categories, at 
least, as an adjectivally apt term. However, this is not the primary way in which I intend 
to use the word. 

Queer, for me, is a word that must always exist in some continuity with gay and 
lesbian history, and — more specifically — with gay and lesbian liberation movements. 
Queer cannot yet (if ever) be completely separated from the historical and lived 

2 Sometimes I use the word to intentionally scandalize or titillate in situations where I am fairly 
certain it is understood primarily as insult in order to challenge this understanding. At other times, I will 
very much want to use the word queer because it more accurately describes what I intend to say, but 
because I am mindful of how it will actually land on the ear and heart of the listener, I refrain. I believe 
there is a great power in language that can be used for good or for ill. I aspire to nurture within myself a 
healthy respect for this power, and to use it in ways that are not harmful, ways that are ultimately liberative, 
ways that may stretch but not break the limits of a conversation and/or relationship. 


experience of individual gay men and lesbians who were/are oppressed by societies and 
institutions intolerant of same-sex relationships or an individual's inability/choice not to 
conform to rigid expectations of gender performance and propriety. Because queer is 
rooted in the hope of creating a more affirming and equitable world for LGBT people, 


queer is a word that should maintain a preferential option for sexual/gender justice, as 
well as an embodied, real-world connection to actual individual lives affected by present 

Queer is not identical with gay and lesbian liberation history, however. Queer is 
the best descriptor I know of the space-between — that complex and tension-filled chasm 
that separates the articulation and liberation of these non-normative sexual/gender 
identity categories (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) and the exposure of their 
inadequacy to fully categorize or describe most individuals. Queer is the elusive force 
that keeps these categories from becoming fixed or essential. In organic terms, queer is 
something of an anti-coagulant; in terms of the illusory black/white dichotomy, queer is 
grey area. In the same way that queer originally expanded the realm of discourse to 
include bisexuals and transgender persons, I hope that it will continue to be expansively 
inclusive of other sex/gender outsiders currently marginalized. Queer is a constantly 
transgressive and boundary-blurring movement that questions assumptions about what is 
natural or even good about one's sexual identity, gender expression, or relationships. 
Queer is not unconcerned with sexual or relational ethics, however, despite this being a 


Borrowing a concept from liberation theology, in which God expresses a persistent preferential 

option for the poor 

74 For exa; 
those whose sexual expressions may be considered taboo for other reasons. 

74 For example: the intersexed, those whose relationships are neither monogamous nor binary, or 


criticism leveled by some who are quite comfortable functioning within the boundaries 
protected by such unquestioned assumptions. It is precisely because queer is concerned 
with justice that ethics are of central importance; however, queer is willing to push the 
inquiry into what constitutes ethical in any given relationship or situation to extremes. 

Ideally, the queer project also promises to contribute, in its broader application, to 
situations and concerns not altogether related to sex or gender. As queer maintains its 
edge, it leads to the questioning of other categories of identity (e.g., race, nationality, 
class, religious affiliation) as well as any assumption about what is believed to be 
"natural" or "right" for all persons, times, and contexts. It is this aspect of the word 
queer, for example, that I believe has the most potential to help the LGBT community 
resist collapsing into satisfied self-absorption when the political rights currently being 
sought are finally granted. " I believe that queer offers a necessary critique of any 
attempt to establish new standards of normativity, which become inclusive of one's own 
existence and desires by simply creating different categories of marginalized and 
oppressed outsiders. I also believe queer offers a critical warning against simply 
replicating or assuming normative structures of dominant culture. 


The dictionary entry for the word queer, then, is always in the process of being 
written and revised. Its hermeneutic is one of suspicion, interrogation, transgression, and 
reversal in the cause of bringing a queerer, more just, world into being. I am convinced 


I confess that I am somewhat concerned that many in the LGBT community will be tempted to 
cease their work for social and political justice for all of the marginalized once they themselves secure 
some of the civil rights currently being pursued (i.e., marriage rights, domestic partnership benefits, 
inheritance rights, etc.). As stated previously, I am also very troubled by the ways in which current LGBT 
political movements tend to be oblivious or indifferent to issues of race, class, nationality, etc. 


the application of this queer hermeneutic to topics of spirituality and theology holds 
significant and positive potential to further liberate and inspire not only gay men, lesbians, 
bisexuals, transgender or intersex persons, and those with other non-normative 
relationships and expressions of erotic desire, but all people of faith. In recent years, 
queer commentary on the Jewish and Christian scriptures has yielded a wealth of fresh 
and meaningful exegetical insights, allowing the so-called "Word of God" to become a 
living and relevant word for sexual/gender minorities. ' I believe this example, notably 
one of many possible, is only the beginning. Such application of queer is not merely a 
mental activity, but one I argue has specific implications for how we live our lives as 
fully embodied people in the world, in general, and as members of spiritual communities 
or congregations, in particular. Of course, this is possible only if we are willing to 
undertake a constant journey with the Queer Spirit, which is what I sincerely hope I, my 
congregation, and the broader movement of MCC will risk doing. 

See Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible, ed. Robert Goss and Mona West 
(Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2000) and Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible, ed. Ken Stone (Cleveland: 
Pilgrim Press, 2001). 



In the same way that the word queer has undergone a vast evolution in meaning 
over the past several decades, so too have the theological reflections that emerge from 
queer experiences. In this chapter, I hope to outline some of the ways in which this 
evolution has taken shape, identify some core queer theological values, and articulate 
some potential benefits of queer theology. 

The Liberation Roots of Queer Theology 

Nearly four decades ago, liberation theology began to emerge as a distinct 
discipline out of the experiences of people in Latin America, specifically the experiences 
of the poor. With growing confidence, theologians in Latin America were taking 
seriously the plight of the poor and assuming the right and responsibility for making their 
theology and the work of the church contextually relevant for that particular life 
experience. Thus initially, liberation theolqgy began as a critique of the church and of 
Christians from the point of view of the poor. It then developed into a critique of broader 
society and the ideologies sustaining the status quo, many of which were bolstered by the 
church's theology. Finally, it became a more sophisticated interpretation of the Christian 
faith flowing directly out of the suffering, struggle, and hope of the poor. ' This was a 
revolutionary movement meant to transform society through a fundamental change in 


Phillip Berryman, Liberation Theology: Essential Facts about the Revolutionary Movement in 
Latin America— and Beyond (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987), 6. 


economic, political, and social structures that would facilitate the literal feeding of the 

hungry and clothing of the naked, as well as the genuine love of neighbor. 

Liberation theology is not unique to Latin America, however. In the introduction 

to their popular text book on liberation theologies, Mary Potter Engel and Susan Brooks 

Thistlethwaite note, 

All around the world popular movements are rising up out of the culture of silence 
and finding their voices. In Latin America, Asia, Africa, North America, Europe, 
and the Pacific Rim, the spirit is moving and communities of the oppressed are 
forming, crying out against their suffering and the social, political, economic, and 
religious structures that give rise to that suffering. 

Liberation theologians find much to criticize about the assumption perpetuated largely by 
white, male theologians that there even exists a universal theology. On the contrary, 
liberation theologians have argued from the beginning that theology is always shaped by 
social location, by the differing social, economic, political and cultural contexts in which 
one thinks theologically. Social location determines "the peculiar interests, emphases, 
viewpoints, analyses, and aims" of a particular theology, which is why it is important to 
speak of "liberation theologies" rather than any one liberation theology. Despite the 
uniqueness of each liberation theology, however, there are connections between them at 
the intersection of the different systems of oppression they seek to address. 

Queer theology is firmly rooted in liberation theologies, including specifically 
feminist theology and theologies of gay and lesbian liberation. Queer theology is 

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel, eds., Lift Every Voice: Constructing 
Christian Theologies from the Underside (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990), 1. 

79 Ibid., 4. 

80 Ibid., 5. 


identical to neither, however, as it is a newer and constantly evolving theological project. 
It does share with both of these other liberation theologies certain objectives, which aim 
to liberate the church, society, and individuals from systems of oppression based on 
limited constructions of gender and sexuality. 

It is important to foreground this liberation aspect of queer theology since one of 
the greatest critiques of queer theory — one of the primary theoretical influences shaping 
queer theology — is that it is hopelessly idealistic and disconnected from the actual lives 

Q I 

of embodied people, as well as the very real struggles they face. During a class lecture 
on June 14, 2006, Robert Goss noted that queer theology may actually be the saving 
grace of queer theory, as it counters this critique by its commitment to liberation and its 
aim of addressing real problems caused by systematic oppression based on issues of 
gender and sexuality. Elizabeth Stuart agrees. She argues that "queer theology has the 
potential to make a contribution to queer theory and rescue it from nihilism because the 
Church is the only community under a divine command and constructed according to a 
divine logic to be queer." Queer theology, since it is a theology and not a theory, is 
invested in the Biblical and Christian tradition of transformation — from individual lives 
that are transformed, to the church (including both local congregations and the church 
universal), to the entire world. 

O 1 

Elizabeth Stuart, Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference (Hampshire, 
England: Ashgate, 2003), 103. 

82 Ibid., 4. 


The Evolution of Queer Theology 

Queer theology continues to evolve from its roots in feminist theology and 
theologies of gay and lesbian liberation. An overview of the major stages in this 
evolution to date, as well as some speculation about areas of future direction, should 
provide a helpful context for understanding queer theology. 


Defense Against the Dark Arts 

The "big bang" that birthed what is becoming a distinctly queer theology (and, by 
no coincidence, MCC) was the collision between elements of the church and society, 
which were influenced by certain religious teachings against same-gender sexual desire 
and relationships, on the one hand, and individuals identifying themselves as gay men or 
lesbians (and eventually bisexual and transgender persons) who finally said, "enough is 
enough!" on the other. These individuals began to claim their voice to describe the 
oppression and discrimination they were experiencing and to demand changes, 
culminating in receipt of respect, equality, and full inclusion in the church and society. In 
many ways, we are still living amidst the rubble of this cosmic collision, as churches and 
governments continue to react in counter-response by enacting legislation (ecclesial and 
secular) aimed at reinforcing the systems that support this oppression and discrimination. 

In the same way that the fictional students at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and 
Wizardry must begin with classes called "Defense Against the Dark Arts" in order to 

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (New York: A. A. Levine Books, 1998). 
This phrase, coined by Rowling in her series of Harry Potter books, is one I find apt in describing a 
particular era and hermeneutic in queer theological discourse, especially Biblical criticism and 


learn techniques to block spells, charms, hexes, and jinxes aimed at them before they can 
learn how to create their own magic, so LGBT Christians had to begin their quest for 
liberation by learning techniques for defending themselves against the attacks of 
homophobic religion. The primary context for this struggle was (and in many instances 
still is) the Bible. In particular, early gay and lesbian liberationists had to learn to deal 


defensively with six "clobber passages" or "texts of terror" consistently leveled at them 
as proof that same- gender sexual desire and activity is sinful and that individuals who 
feel same-sex attraction or participate in sexual relationships with person(s) of their own 
biological sex must repent. These passages include the story of Sodom (Genesis 19:4- 
11), references in the holiness code of ancient Israel (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13), and three 
references from the Greek New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, and 
Romans l:26-27). 85 

A majority of the material published about homosexuality and Christianity from 
the late 1960's through the early 1990's was focused on this defense against "textual 
harassment."' These theologians and biblical scholars used a variety of historical critical 
methods to uncover the social context and concerns that shaped these texts. They also 
spent a great deal of time studying the original languages for words that have since been 


This term, borrowed from feminist Biblical scholar Phyllis Trible, is one Robert Goss uses to 
reference these texts. 

A discussion of these texts is beyond the scope of this paper. 

Mary Ann Tolbert, "Foreword," in Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible, ed. 
Robert E. Goss and Mona West (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2000). The term "textual harassment" is used by 
Tolbert to explain this use of scripture to harass and harm queer people. 


translated, often uncritically, as synonyms for the modern term homosexual. ' Notably, 

many of these arguments included or considered foundational essentialist understandings 

of sexual identity. Stuart summarizes this understanding well when she writes, 

Broadly speaking, essentialists argue that a person's sexual orientation is an 
objective and transcultural fact. Though essentialists may disagree as to the 
origin of sexual orientation (some would attribute it to genetic make-up, others to 
a person's first pleasurable encounter or to interaction with their parents), they 
would agree that homosexuality is a transcultural and transhistorical 



This essentialist conception allowed gay and lesbian liberationists to use the strategies of 
others whose liberation hermeneutic is based on an ethnic-minority model of identity. If 
there exists an essential gay or lesbian identity, which is not chosen but simply is, then a 
number of arguments can be made against any sort of discrimination (e.g. exclusion from 
the church) based on such an unchangeable or natural characteristic. Theologians like 
John McNeil illustrate how the primary approach of this method is thoroughly 

Transitioning from Defense to Offense: Reading with LGBT Eyes 

Several lesbian and gay theologians were able to move beyond defense against the 
dark arts and turn their attention to texts and topics that had not been chosen for them by 

Examples of these books include: Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Is 
the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978), 
John McNeil, The Church and the Homosexual (Kansas City: Sheed, Andrews, and McNeel, 1976), and 
Daniel A. Helminiak, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality (San Francisco: Alamo Square 
Press, 1994). 

88 Stuart, 8. 

89 Ibid., 24. 


their opponents. A strategy of reading the Bible and exploring theological themes 
through the lens of lesbian and gay experience began to emerge in the work of such 
theologians as Nancy L. Wilson and Chris Glaser. 91 Wilson, a pastor and elder in the 
MCC, published Our Tribe: Queer Folk, God, Jesus, and the Bible, perhaps the most 
assertive and edgy work in this emerging category, in 1995. In this book, she looks for 
characters in the Bible who may be considered the precursors or ancestors of modern 
"queer folk." She analyzes the similarities between such scriptural relationships as 
Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, the Bethany Family (i.e., Mary, Martha, and 
Lazarus), and many eunuchs, on the one hand, and the relationships of contemporary 
gays and lesbians, on the other. The primary strategy employed in this analysis was 
described in a recent lecture by Mona West as an "offensive 'outing'" strategy. 94 Glaser 
uses the experience of "coming out" as a gay or lesbian person as a lens through which to 
examine the many ways in which people are called by God to "come out" as a sacred act 
of liberation. He likewise looks for occasions in the Bible when characters have to 
"come out" in specific ways in order to liberate themselves from captivity or oppression. 

I have intentionally not included bisexual and transgender at this particular time, since the 
authors to which I'm referring did not yet include any substantial exploration of bisexuality or 
transgenderism, even if they may have occasionally included the terms. 

91 Chris Glaser, Coming Out as Sacrament (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998) and 
Nancy Wilson, Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 

92 Ibid. 

Wilson's use of the term queer is generally a coalition term drawing together gay, lesbian, 
bisexual, and transgender persons. Her use of the term was not, at the time of publication, influenced by 
queer theory. 

"Queer Explorations for Pastoral, Theological, and Ethical Issues," Episcopal Divinity School, 
June 13, 2006. 


Wilson and Glaser, as well as many other theologians who use this type of 
reading strategy and construction of theology, also rely to a great extent on an essentialist 
understanding of sexual identity. 5 As Elizabeth Stuart writes, "Foundational to their 
theology is the stable gay/lesbian self whose experience is strong enough to function as a 
hermeneutical lens through which to interpret scripture and to extend backwards through 
history in a tribal genealogy." 6 As we will see, those who reject this essentialist 
understanding find this to be a considerable flaw in this theological strategy. 

Another critique of this approach can be made on the basis of its investment in 
existing systems of privilege based on identity-based relationship status. For example, 
this approach very rarely offers any sustained criticism of such institutions as 
heterosexual marriage; rather it simply desires to gain access to the privileges provided 
by these systems for gay and lesbian couples. In many instances, this can come off as an 
apologetic clamoring for the rights to bankrupt institutions, which seems to be rooted in a 
systemic case of low self-esteem. I wholeheartedly agree with Stuart when she argues, 
"the gay self is destined to constantly play theological catch-up with the heterosexual self 
as long as those very categories of sexual identity go unexamined." 

5 This was true at least at the time of the publications referenced. Notably, both Wilson and 
Glaser, as well as others, have likely been influenced by later developments in queer religious thought. 

96 Stuart, 27. 

97 Ibid., 28. 


Queer Theological Imagination 

In the past decade, certain theologians have begun to more explicitly utilize the 

theoretical framework of queer theory in their academic work. The primary shift this 

requires is a fundamentally different understanding of identity. The "'essence' of queer 

theory" is that 

There is no essential sexuality or gender. 'Queer' then is not actually another 
identity alongside lesbian and gay (although it is sometimes rather confusingly 
used to convey a radical coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender 
persons) but a radical destabilizing of identities and resistance to the naturalizing 


of any identity. 

The first work that began to move in this direction was Robert Goss's Jesus Acted 
Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto. In this work, Goss does not go so far as to 
incorporate an understanding of the word queer that takes queer theory into account; 
however, he does employ the word queer as an active coalitional political strategy for 
destabilizing dominant discourses about sexual identity by exposing and parodying the 
limitations of any such stable categories. Like queer theorists, he relies heavily on the 
work of Michel Foucault to establish that "a gay/lesbian identity was not given, it was 
made" and that "if lesbian and gay people were conscious of the constructed nature of 
their identity then they could choose to reconstruct their identities in ways that escaped 
the worst aspects of heterosexuality," a project Goss identifies as a primary work of gay 
and lesbian theologians. Though primarily a work of deconstruction, Jesus Acted Up 

98 Ibid., 10. 

"Stuart, 81. 


does suggest a queer reconstruction of the basileia of Jesus rooted in "solidarity, 
compassion, loving service, transgressive action, and inclusive table fellowship with 
others who are oppressed." 1 l These values serve as the roots of a queer liberation 
theology that Goss develops more fully in his later work. 

Following Goss's earlier work, queer theology began to emerge as a category of 
theological work distinctly different than gay and lesbian liberation theologies by 
rejecting the validity of any stable categories of sexuality or gender. As Stuart notes, 
"queer theology is not a 'natural' development of gay and lesbian theology but rather an 
unnatural development which emerges from the fissures within gay and lesbian theology 
to which the repetitions within it draw attention." Queer theology constantly 
challenges heteronormativity, a term used by Goss and others "to describe the 
dominant sex/gender system that privileges heterosexual males while it subordinates 
women and disprivileges gender/sexual transgressors." 104 In his most recent work, Goss 
further argues that "this heteronormative understanding creates a gender/sexual 

100 The Greek word typically translated "kingdom" or "realm." 

101 Ibid., 83. 

102 Ibid., 89. 

Heteronormativity refers to the lived expression of sexuality and gender that is considered 
normative by majority/centrist society. In the context of the United States and other "Western" cultures, 
this generally means that gender is determined by biological sex and that the gender of the object of one's 
sexual and affectional desire is necessarily opposite to one's own gender. This paradigm is normalized in 
the institution of heterosexual marriage. 

Goss, Robert E., Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2002), 



fundamentalism that pathologizes gender and sexual differences and fails to accept the 

fluidity of gender and sexual identity." 105 

Taking its cue from queer theory, queer theology also resists the establishment of 

any sort of gay and lesbian hegemony. Goss claims this objective in his own work. He 


"Queer" turns upside down, inside out, and defies heteronormative and 
homonormative theologies. I use "queer" theologically, not only as an identity 
category but also as a tool of theological deconstruction, for "queer" as a verb 
means "to spoil or to interfere." Heteronormative theologies exclude me except in 
their hermeneutics of abomination while gay/lesbian normative theologies 
exclude those who do not neatly fit into the categories. 106 

In order to expose the limitations of any normalizing forces, be they hetero- or homo- 
normative, theologians like Goss embrace the "hermeneutical role of normative 
transgression in emerging queer theologies." Such transgression subverts and blurs 
traditional boundaries and existing paradigms with "liberative action driven by the 
imagination of alternative possibilities and hopes." This evolving queer perspective 
aims at including everyone and allowing differences to emerge and co-exist without 
being reconciled into some metanormative model. The ultimate aim of this practice of 
"queering" is to "imaginatively reconstruct theology, spirituality, and church practices in 
new, inclusive configurations." 109 

105 Ibid. 

106 Ibid., 228-9. (Italics for emphasis.) 

107 Ibid., 229. 

108 Ibid., 230. 

109 Ibid., 250. 


Queer theology aims to create a world that resists fixity of gender or sexual 
identity. Likewise, it calls into question any rigidly defined norms for performing gender 
or expressing sexuality. At the radically inclusive queer table, there is room not only for 
those who identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, or transgender, but also those 
who consider themselves intentional genderfuckers or who flow among and between 
these unstable categories of identity. Additionally, there is room for those whose 
paradigms of sexual relationships subvert dominant models, including leather folk, 
BDSMers, 111 and those involved in various configurations of polyamorous relationship. 
This degree of inclusion is offensive to many who are invested in gaining political 
privilege or ecclesial "acceptance" based on only a slight "tweaking" of dominant models 
of gender/sexual normativity, since it sabotages their normalizing agenda. 

Bisexual Argentinean scholar Marcella Althaus-Reid may be the theologian most 
offensive in this regard. She insists that queer theology must be passionately and 
unapologetically "indecent" if it is to appropriately jar us from our unchecked 
assumptions and our participation in interlocking systems of oppression and injustice. 
For her, sexuality is the proper access point to examine the Christian theology, since the 

i.e., those who make the self-conscious attempt to "fuck with," subvert, or queer (used as a verb) 
normative or traditional understandings of gender identity, gender roles, and gender presentation through 
the use of parody, exaggeration, and other intentional ways of creating gender dissonance or ambiguity. 

111 The acronym BDSM includes the major sub-groupings Bondage and Discipline (B&D), 
Dominance and Submission (D&S), and Sadism and Masochism or Sadomasochism (S&M). It refers to a 
number of different sexual practices including domination, submission, bondage, role play, power sex, and 
other forms of "kinky" sex. BDSMers generally agree on a baseline sexual ethic of "safe, sane, and 

Marcella Althaus-Reid, Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and 
Politics (London: Routledge, 2000). 


entire development of Christian theology has been so driven by "a sexual project 
concerned with the praxis of specific heterosexual understandings elevated to a sacred 


level." Thus by "disrupting the sexual ideology of Christianity, a whole political 
project which works against people's lives is also disrupted." Althaus-Reid's work is 
perhaps the most sophisticated at exploring the intersections of different aspects of social 
location and how they ought to work together in the cause of liberation, a topic to which 
we will now turn. 

Queer Potentialities: Transgressions of Self-interest 

One of the most promising potentialities of queer theology, I believe, lies in its 

ability to critically understand the points of conversion and overlap between different 

systems of oppression and to offer creative transgressive actions that take all of these 

various aspects of social location into account for the larger cause of divine/human 

liberation for all, especially the most vulnerable and invisible. As Goss argues, 

Queer theologies proceed from critical analysis of the social context that forms 
our sexual and gender experiences and the web of interlocking oppressions and 
from our innovative and transgressive practices. Queer theology is an organic or 
community-based project that includes our diverse sexual contextualities, our 
particular social experiences of homo/bi/transphobic oppression and their 
connection to other forms of oppression, and our self-affirmations of 
sexual/gendered differences, and it will impact the future development of 
liberation theologies. 1 15 

113 Marcella Althaus-Reid, The Queer God (London: Routledge, 2003), 9. 
,14 Ibid. 

Goss, Queering Christ, 253. (Italics for emphasis.) 


Whereas one of the criticisms of gay and lesbian liberation theologies was their obvious 
motivation in and occasional limitation to matters of self-interest, no such criticism can 
be leveled at queer theologies that take seriously the queer call to transgress the many 
traditional boundaries and binarisms (i.e., false dichotomies) that undergird all oppressive 
ideologies. Queer theologies rooted in erotic justice must respond, for example, not only 
to oppressions based on gender/sexuality, but also in compassionate solidarity with those 
struggling to overturn systems of racial and economic injustice. 

The single-focused goal of self-interested liberation that has occasionally been 
characteristic of gay and lesbian theologies, as well as feminist theologies, black 
theologies, and other liberation efforts, cannot be the end result of a genuine queer 
theology. Queer theologies must seriously acknowledge and find creative solutions to the 
problem that occurs when various social justice movements become compartmentalized 
or view their work in terms of competition for limited resources. Historically, certain 
progresses to confront oppressions have been made, both intentionally and 
unintentionally, by perpetuating or failing to confront other oppressions against different 
groups. For example, racism was confronted and certain civil rights were gained by 
African Americans; at the same time, the rights of sexual minorities and women within 
the African American community were not deemed equally worthy of consideration. 
Likewise, heterosexism was confronted by gay, white men who often failed to understand 
the ways in which they perpetuated sexism and racism. And, heterosexism and sexism 
were confronted by white, lesbian women who often failed to understand the unique ways 
in which they themselves disadvantaged women of color and poor women by not 
confronting the injustices of racism and classism. 


I am impressed with the way in which Maria Lugones articulates the problem, as 

well as the challenge and opportunity presented if we can begin to make the connections 

between the intersection of oppressions. She writes: 

Intersectionality reveals what is not seen when categories such as gender and race 
are conceptualized as separate from each other. The move to intersect categories 
has been motivated by the difficulty in making visible those who are dominated 
and victimized in terms of both categories. Though everyone in capitalist 
Eurocentered modernity is both raced and gendered, not everyone is dominated or 
victimized in terms of their race and gender. Kimberle Crenshaw and other 
women of color feminists have argued that the categories have been understood as 
homogenous and as picking out the dominant in the group as the norm; thus 
women picks out white bourgeois women, men picks out white bourgeois men, 
black picks out black heterosexual men, and so on. It becomes logically clear 
then that the logic of categorial separation distorts what exists at the intersection, 
such as violence against women of color. Given the construction of the 
categories, the intersection misconstrues women of color. So, once 
intersectionality shows us what is missing, we have ahead of us the task of 
reconceptualizing the logic of the intersection so as to avoid separability. It is 
only when we perceive gender and race as intermeshed or fused that we even see 
women of color. 1 

We might also say that it is only when we perceive sexuality and race as intermeshed that 
we can see LGBT people of color, or that only when we perceive class and sexuality as 
intermeshed that we can see poor queer people, and so on. 

With its attention on the edges of marginality and the disruptions in stable identity 
categories, queer theology has the potential to help us understand and meet this challenge. 
Queer theologies exist on the margin between what is decent/acceptable and what is 
indecent/scandalous. They seek to expose the reality that very often what is considered 
decent/acceptable according to the status quo and existing systems of power and privilege 

116 Maria Lugones, "Heterosexualism and the Colonial /Modern Gender System," Hypatia 22 

(2007) 192-3. 


is actually that which might rightly be viewed as indecent/scandalous through the eyes of 
God and the lens of divine justice. Because it is a theology and not only an academic 
theory, queer theology is invested in the redemption and transformation of these realities 
for the larger cause (as mentioned previously) of divine/human liberation for all, 
especially the most vulnerable or invisible. 

Core Queer Theological Values 

As queer theology is emerging, several core values seem to be guiding its 
evolution. In the paragraphs that follow, I will offer some speculation about some of 
these core values as well as the significance they may suggest for future queer theological 
thought. This list is merely illustrative and in no way exhaustive. 

Goodness of Bodies/Sexual Bodies 

As Althaus-Reid succinctly says, "Queer theology is a materialist theology that 
takes bodies seriously." While on the surface this may seem a simple thing, it 
represents a significant shift away from the body-denying ethos of much of Christian 
tradition. Not only has Christianity in the main tended to denigrate and debase human 
bodies in general, giving primary attention to the presumed separate — and superior — 
spirit or soul, but it has added insult to injury by hating specific bodies even more than 
others: i.e., female bodies, bodies of color, impoverished bodies, bodies with disabilities, 
and — worst of all — openly sexual bodies. Queer bodies take on this abuse to an even 

117 Althaus-Reid, The Queer God, 19. 


greater extent as they bend/blur/transgress the link between biological sex and gender or 
as they claim a bodily state of permanent ambiguity. A reclaiming of the sacredness of 
human bodies, in general, and of queer sexual bodies, in particular, is a central objective 
of queer theologies. 

Because queer theology takes bodies seriously, it tends to be biographical in 
nature. "At the bottom line of Queer theologies, there are biographies of sexual migrants, 


testimonies of real lives in rebellions made of love, pleasure, and suffering." This 
foundation in personal embodied experience is something queer theologies share in 
common with many other liberation theologies, which likewise seek to hold themselves 
accountable to the lived experiences of people in particular social locations. Queer 
theology reclaims this lived experience of embodiment as a primary resource for our 
knowledge of God and one another. As Beverly Harrison writes, "All our relations to 
others — to God, to neighbor, to cosmos — [are] mediated through our bodies, which are 
the locus of our perception and attentiveness in people." The body is thus reclaimed as 
the location of revelation. And since Christian theology purports to take seriously the 
incarnation (i.e., God's embodiment in the human Jesus) as a revelatory sacred event, this 
aspect of queer theology seems particularly relevant for redeeming Christian spirituality 
from its body-negative history. 

Because queer theology is also a sexual theology, it pays particular attention to 
the erotic potential present when boundaries between bodies are pleasurably and 

118 Ibid., 8. 

Beverly Wildung Harrison, "Human Sexuality and Mutuality," in Christian Feminism: Visions 
of a New Humanity, ed. Judith L. Weidman (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984), 147-8. 


positively transgressed. As Althaus-Reid writes, "A Queer theological project is not only 

a theology from and of the body: it is a theology of the traveling body which crosses 

borders between unnameable countries, and is given away by transversal kisses and re- 

configurations of desire." In understanding the erotic as a resource of divine 

discovery, queer theologians actually tap back into the ecstatic experiences of many early 

Christian mystics whose expression of union with God or Christ was laden with the 

language of eroticism and the sacred pleasure present in the transgression of bodily 

boundaries, including divine/human boundaries. Queer theologians are unembarrassed 

by these frankly sexual descriptions because they reinforce the belief that erotic sexual 

experiences can be avenues by which we come to discover more about ourselves, God, 

and one another in ways that transform us into more just and more loving people. This 

assertion is queer in that it spoils the agenda of dominant patriarchal theologies. In the 

words of Marvin Ellison, 

Patriarchal Christianity has it wrong: The erotic is not a hostile, alien force 
lurking from within to bring us to ruin, but is rather an internal moral guidance 
system, grounded in our body's responsiveness to respectful, loving touch. ... 
Contrary to patriarchal voices, ... erotic desires are not inherently selfish or 
antithetical to moral value. Progressive seekers of justice-love can well imagine 
living by an ethical eroticism that enjoys life's pleasures and at the same time 
prods us to pursue a more ethical world. The erotic can fuel our passion for 
justice. It invites us to take ourselves seriously as sexual persons, playfully as 
erotic equals, and persistently as those who refuse to accept oppression as the way 
things must be. 

120 Ibid., 50. 

1 21 

Marvin M. Ellison, Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality (Louisville, Kentucky: 
Westminster John Knox, 1996), 81. (Italics in original.) 


One of the strongest liberation roots of queer theology is found in this relentless 
insistence on the goodness of the human body, including queer bodies, and on the moral 
value of erotic sexual experiences based in justice-love. 

1 77 

Fluidity vs. Fixity 

Perhaps the greatest challenge of and for queer theology is making peace with the 
fluidity that is its constant calling. For better or worse, we live in a world in which the 
disorienting feeling of chaos is occasionally and desirably balanced by orienting 
moments when we believe we have gotten a handle on something. Humans have 
typically treated issues of the body and sexuality in just this way and seem very reluctant 
to change. We are socialized to believe that reasonable assumptions can be made on the 
basis of supposedly stable factors such as biological sex, gender expression, and erotic 

1 73 

desire. Generally speaking, when a baby is born, we observe the genitals and make an 
automatic pronouncement that "It's a boy" or "It's a girl." When young "boys" and 
"girls" head off to their first socializing encounters at school, we ask them respectively, 
"Do you have a girlfriend" or "Do you have a boyfriend?" These examples illustrate the 
ways in which the entire structure of heteronormativity is held up by assumptions about 
the fixity of stable categories of sex-gender-desire. One of the fun things queer theology 
inherits from queer theory is its ability to mess things up and topple that structure. Queer 

1 11 

Term used by Robert Goss in EDS course lecture on June 14, 2006. 

1 1% 

Here 1 speak of the dominant culture in the United States and other similar contexts. There 
may indeed exist other cultural contexts in which this socialization is not so obvious or ingrained, or in 
which the fluidity of these categories may even be openly treated. 


insists that no such assumptions can be made. Furthermore, queer insists that when these 
assumptions are made, it is a sacred moral value to disrupt (i.e., queer) them. 

The diverse experiences of transgender people confirm that biological sex is not 
ultimately or solely determinative in deciding gender. In fact, certain indicators of 
biological sex can be physically changed if someone desires to make those bodily 
transformations as part of their own journey toward authenticity and wholeness. Other 
people may choose to live in a perpetual state of gender ambiguity, to move freely among 
and between different gender expressions, or to intentionally parody the limitations of 
any gender binarisms by genderfucking. Queer theology insists that we listen to and 
honor the lived experiences of gender-variant people. As Justin Tanis writes, "While 
[academic gender] theories may be interesting, what is urgently needed is something that 
is relevant and useable in our lives and the only way to create such relevant material is to 
do so in the context of real, lived lives that speak about our own experiences." 124 When 
we listen to and honor the diverse experiences of trans people, we can have no doubt that 
gender is indeed bigger than biological sex. Further, we can come to understand the 
value of promoting and protecting an individual's sacred right to self-determination in 
such matters. 

The diverse experiences of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people likewise demonstrate 
the erroneous assumption of a stable link between gender and sexual desire. One's 
identification as a "man" or a "woman" does not automatically infer any particular 
gender of the object(s) of one's sexual or affectional desires. Growing out of its roots in 

Justin Tanis, Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry and Communities of Faith (Cleveland: 
Pilgrim Press, 2003), 10. 


gay and lesbian liberation theologies, queer theology insists on the sacred value of gay 
and lesbian relationships. Queer theology pushes the envelope even further, however, 
when it calls into question some of the other assumptions of fixity and stability rolled into 
the dominant heteronormative (and, to a lesser extent, homonormative) model. For 
example: Must all holy and faithful relationships be monogamous? Must they be 
restricted to only two people? Is the only sacred commitment one that lasts a lifetime? If 
one "comes out" as a lesbian or a gay man, is that necessarily once and for all, or might 
one later explore or claim another "identity" category that is more fluid? 

It may be helpful to reiterate that this idea of fluidity versus fixity is both a 
challenge of and for queer theology. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily the case that 
those who identify as gay or lesbian are easily able to take the step beyond their own 
experience and embrace the experience of gender-queers or people whose relationships 
do not mimic the heteronormative model of monogamous marriage. Many gay and 
lesbian people tend to wish and work for liberation only in as much as they can move 
themselves from the unacceptable margins back to the acceptable center. The central 
objective of queer theology that aims to subvert fixity is bound to unsettle those gays and 
lesbians who manage to regain and maintain their place in the pyramid of privilege by 
investing in certain "stable" aspects of the heteronormative status quo. It can be as 
difficult for those whose life experiences have led them to live in grey area and question 
the status quo to live in a constant state of flux as it can for those new to the experience. 
It should behoove us to remain mindful of the spiritual challenge this value of fluidity 
presents to all people, even those who may have theoretically embraced it. 


So far, this intentional subversion of fixity has been applied most readily in terms 
of gender or sexual desire. As alluded to earlier, I believe that this hermeneutic of 
subverting fixity should be applied more broadly and may come to expose and overturn 
other identities or systems we have tended to assume are fixed or stable. This could 
apply to matters of race, class, ability, ethnicity, and even religious affiliation. For 
example, one of the trends in recent Christian theologizing, as demonstrated by such 
authors as Kathy Rudy and Rowan Williams, has been to prioritize baptismal Christian 
identity as one that trumps and sets aside all other identities. While there is obvious 
theological insight in this that is worthy of further exploration, I am not as quick to 
disregard the challenge queer theorists like Alison Webster might offer "that surely 

1 ")f\ 

Christian identity is as unstable or slippery as a sexual identity." Indeed, Christian 
identity is often as individually determined as any sexual or gender identity. I believe the 
queer project insists that we apply our core value of fluidity to some of the theological 
categories and concepts we have yet to question. My hope is that it will lead us, at the 
very least, into an increased appreciation of interreligious dialogue and inclusion. 

Inclusivity and Hospitality 

A somewhat legitimate heir of gay and lesbian liberation, queer theology values a 
radical inclusivity in Christian community that welcomes the outcast, the marginalized, 
the untouchable, and all of those who have been told by exclusivist religious authorities 

125 As noted by Stuart, 106 

126 Ibid. 


that they are unworthy, unloved, or invisible. Queer theologians begin with the core 
assumption that every individual is created in the image of God (imago dei) and, 
therefore, is of inherent sacred worth. Some people fear that this radical welcome will do 
away with any standards of ethical conduct in community, but this fear is unfounded. By 
valuing inclusivity, queer theologians affirm the dignity of all people and the ideal of 
building a community of mutual love and support where all people can participate as their 
most authentic selves. Far from rejecting moral standards, the types of ethical behaviors 
such a community must nurture in order to be radically inclusive are substantial. 

In her recent book Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical 
Inclusion, Yvette Flunder addresses this topic by affirming the "explicit call for the 
inclusion of the marginalized" and articulating clearly that this is a challenging notion of 
what it means to be Christian community. A veteran pastor of a vibrant community 
currently composed primarily of African Americans, including a number of same gender 
loving (SGL) persons, transgender persons, people living with HIV/AIDS, and others on 
the edges of society, Flunder believes hospitality and inclusivity are linked in their 
essential importance in making this type of community possible. She argues that they 


"must be coupled with accountability to and responsibility for the community if it is to be 

sustained." Offering a metaphor of village life, which attempts to capture the dual 

ideas of inclusivity/hospitality and accountability, she claims 

The creation of Christian community among people marginalized by the church 
and society requires that the community maintain a presence of cultural 
familiarity while actively fighting and overcoming oppressive and exclusive 

1 97 

Flunder, Yvette A., Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion 
(Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2005), ix-x. 


theology. Sustaining community among people who visibly represent 
marginalized groups necessitates (a) the use of village ethics or knowing where 
the boundaries are when all things are exposed and (b) the importance of village 
table theology or giving everyone a seat at the central meeting place or welcome 

table. 128 

Queer theology shares with Flunder a vision of this type of community, as difficult as it 
may be to nurture and sustain, as a vision of "true community — true church" that 
"enables the celebration of diversity and inclusion of all peoples, especially those who 
have traditionally been marginalized by religious institutions." 

Because queer theology aims to shape a church and society in which all people 
are included, queer theologians must remain attentive to the voices rising from the silence 
of the margins. Every time the community begins to become reasonably assured that all 
are included, it can be relatively certain that it has developed a growing comfort with a 
new status quo and that it needs to look again for those who are not present. The queer 
theological project is one that makes its nomadic home in the margins, and it must renew 
its constituency based on who is being marginalized in a given time and context by 
center-based theologies. Once again, this means that it is attentive and responsive to the 
intersections of oppressions and that it must raise its voice in solidarity with the excluded, 
beyond a limited self interest. The creation of a truly inclusive community is a core 
queer theological value — theoretically, sacramentally, and actually. 

128 Ibid., x. 

129 Ibid., xiv. 


Contribution of Queer Theology 

Queer theology has a tremendous gift to offer individuals, the church, our 

communities, and our world. As a marginal theology attentive to the permeations that 

exist between presumed fixed and solid boundaries, queer theology taps into what 

biologist Barry Lopez calls the "evolutionary potential" found at charged border zones. " 

In his eloquent article, "Into the Body of Another: Eros, Embodiment and Intimacy with 

the Natural World," Douglas Burton-Christie describes this location as "the meeting point 

of two worlds, in the fluid space where they mingle and dance together." He goes on 

to say 

To understand such a world means learning to accept its vital, insistent dynamism 
and its organic evolutionary developments as basic features of the landscape. To 
inhabit such a world means learning to dwell in a landscape where borders are 
fluid and permeable, where life unfolds in unexpected ways in the continuous 
movement of species back and forth across borders. It is easy to miss these subtle 
movements. Yet to do so is to risk missing the very life of the place. So it is with 
other ecotones that we inhabit, those fluid, often-contested spaces between the 
human and the "more than human" worlds, between matter and spirit, body and 
soul, heaven and earth, humanity and divinity. It is not easy to move across the 
borders between these worlds, or to inhabit the charged, liminal space that joins 
them together. The mental habit of dualism is, for many of us, so ingrained that it 
is difficult even to imagine doing so. Yet we must, for the sake of the world as 
well as for the sake of our own souls, try. Unless we are able to imagine these 
different worlds in relationship to one another, drawn together in a subtle, 
rhythmic dance, we will be condemned to live a thin, impoverished existence, 
bereft of intimacy, empty of feeling and spirit. And we will continue to visit our 
own sense of alienation upon the living world. 

Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (New York: 
Bantam, 1987), 109-1 10, as quoted in Douglas Burton-Christie. "Into the Body of Another: Eros, 
Embodiment and Intimacy with the Natural World," Anglican Theological Review 81 (1999): 13-37. 

131 Burton-Christie, 13. 

132 Ibid., 13-14. 


Queer theology can help us learn to live in such a world, able not only to survive but to 
thrive in the liminal areas that constitute so much of our life together. In fact, queer 
theology gives us a constantly expanding vocabulary to discuss the ways in which the 
boundaries we thought were so fixed and the identities we thought were so stable were, in 
fact, neither. It allows us to reimagine with God a world in which borders are permeable 
and where, in the words of Burton-Christie, "life emerges nowhere else so fully and 
deeply as it does in the exchange across these borders." 

While it grows out of a particular concern to overcome rigid assumptions about 
gender and sexuality, as well as the systems of discrimination and oppression built upon 
those assumptions, queer theology offers strategies for deconstructing other rigid systems 
that keep certain people excluded and underprivileged on the basis of seemingly innate or 
fixed characteristics. It also offers constructive tools for reimagining an inclusive world 
that is vibrant and alive with delightful variations and sacred surprises. Queer theology 
pushes us beyond the limitations of our own thinking and invites us to join in 
collaborative co-creation with the God whose imagination is not so limited. As a 
liberation theology, queer theology remains accountable to the lived experience of real 
people with real problems, real hopes, real dreams, real struggles. Its "public" is 
expansive and its agenda is dominated by the desire for divine justice-love. As 
individuals are empowered to name for themselves their embodied experiences, all of us 
are invited to question our unchecked assumptions and to stretch the limits of our 
smallness to include the recognition of those experiences, as well as to learn more about 

133 Ibid., 17. 


our own in the interaction. In this way, queer theology offers us a different way of seeing 
the world and ourselves in it, a vibrant and surprising world of endless gradations and 
nuances in which the disruption of rigidity is a manifestation of grace. 





I believe that there must be real connections between theology and praxis if 
theology is to mean anything at all. In other words, what a congregation thinks and 
values must translate into its embodied lived experience and actions if its thoughts and 
values are accurate and actual. In fact, if integrity between theological thought and 
practical action does not exist, the validity and stability of that thought might rightly be 
called into question. Therefore, congregations need to be intentional about ensuring that 
such an integral link exists between their core theological values and how those values 
are lived out in the fullness of their congregational lives. 

In this chapter, I hope to make the case for being intentional about developing an 
integrity of praxis flowing out of queer theological values. This will include some 
discussion of the troublesome gaps between theology and praxis I have observed in 
certain MCC churches. Additionally, because a key feature of the pastoral leader is to 
help the congregation develop such an integral and grounded praxis, I hope to outline 
some strategies that pastors of queer churches may use to be intentional about developing 
queer spiritual communities. 

The author of the book of James said very succinctly, "Faith without works is 
dead." ' While this statement was made in the midst of a complex discussion about the 
nature of salvation, which is a topic beyond the scope of this thesis, it does describe well 

James 2:17; 2:26; in the larger pericope 2:14-26. 


what has long been seen as a problem if the content of one's faith beliefs are inconsistent 
with one's actions. The same sentiment is summed up in the adage, "You must practice 
what you preach," or similarly, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." It is also the 
problem identified in the Bible and contemporary discussions of religion when charges of 
hypocrisy are made against those whose lived reality does not match their professed 
belief. The popular book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about 
Christianity ... and Why It Matters contains just such an indictment of Christianity. " 
The book reports the results of a Barna Group survey of youth between the ages of 16 
and 29 in the United States, a majority of which see Christians as a group, first and 
foremost, as judgmental, hypocritical, and anti-gay. My gut instinct is that these 
percentages would be even higher for those who have been marginalized by the church 
because they are in some way queer. Consequently, it becomes all the more important 
for queer churches to be intentional about aligning their practice with their beliefs, 
values, and convictions. 

The general conviction that faith practices should be in alignment with and flow 
directly out of one's core theological values is the foundation of the collaborative work 
Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life edited by Dorothy Bass and 
Miroslav Volf. " " In her introduction to this volume, Bass argues that "Our thinking 

1 IT 

about God and our way of living should go hand in hand." Craig Dykstra and Dorothy 

David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons. UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about 
Christianity ... and Why it Matters (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2007). 

Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life, ed. Dorothy C. Bass and Miroslav 
Volf (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman's, 2002). 

137 Dorothy C. Bass, "Introduction," in Practicing Theology, 2. 


Bass say this more strongly, "Beliefs and practices can and should be understood in 
relation to one another" and should "reject the separation of thought and action, seeing in 
practice a form of cooperative and meaningful human endeavor in which the two are 
inextricably entwined." By focusing on Christian practices, contributing authors are 
able to "demand attentiveness to specific people doing specific things together within a 
specific frame of shared meaning." 1 In other words, practices are the location where the 
rubber meets the road; they are the direct actions that bring theological belief to lived 
expression in the Christian community. It is also important to note that not only does 
theological belief shape practice, but the practices also have an influencing role in 
shaping theological belief. Our practices are formative in the sense that they shape our 
way of being and thinking in the world. Likewise, when we realize that the practices we 
find most meaningful are out of sync with our beliefs, an opening is made for us to revise 
and modify our beliefs. 

This mutually dynamic relationship between theology and praxis is one of the 
primary concerns to which the leaders of theological communities must remain attentive. 
As Bass writes, "Those who lead theological communities need to find ways of . . . 
preventing theological reflection from becoming overly abstract or distant from the 
messy realm where human beings dwell and where Christian life and ministry take 
place." This "messy realm" of "real life" is something to which leaders of 

1 ^8 

Craig Dykstra and Dorothy C. Bass, "A Theological Understanding of Christian Practices," in 

Practicing Theology, 2 1 . 

139 Bass, "Introduction," in Practicing Theology, 3. 

140 Ibid., 5. 


communities must continually draw attention. Israel Galindo also addresses this aspect 

of faith in his recent work as he writes to congregational leaders about helping their 

communities develop an "effective faith." 

A qualitative understanding of faith accepts that, as many scholars and theologians 
claim, faith is a normative human dimension — everyone has faith. Effective faith 
is the kind of faith that makes a difference — has an effect — on the way we live 
our lives. That is, effectual faith is a particular kind of faith, the kind of faith that 
has an overt effect on our lives: the way we behave, the way we think, the way we 
make decisions, the values we hold, and the response we make to life. 

If faith communities are not attentive to ensuring that faith is effective and that there is an 

integral relationship between thinking and doing, between theological thought and praxis, 

then they run the risk of becoming irrelevant to individual members of the community, 

the community at large, and the larger world. 

My hope is to take this general question about integrating theology and praxis and 

apply it specifically to the integration of queer theology and congregational praxis in 

MCC. The previous chapter outlines some examples of core theological values, which in 

no way a constitute a complete list, but which will serve as a good beginning to this 

conversation. As congregations that provide alternatives to the hegemony of 

heteronormativity that permeates both church and culture, MCC's work of integrating 

theological belief and praxis is necessarily a continuously countercultural endeavor. 

For this reason, it requires a certain amount of careful vigilance. 

Israel Galindo, The Hidden Lives of Congregations: Discerning Church Dynamics (Herndon, 

Virginia: Alban, 2004), 96 

Actually, we n 
integrating queer theological values simply ups the ante considerably 

Actually, we might argue that integrating all gospel values are countercultural actions; 


The few core values that I have argued are decidedly queer in nature, include (a) 
affirming the goodness of human bodies in general and sexual bodies in particular, (b) 
privileging fluidity over fixity, and (c) living out a radical form of inclusivity and 
hospitality in the Christian community. These values are formed by queer experience 
and, in turn, influence the way queer people think theologically. We could appropriately 
argue that these values are sacred values that describe the character of God as well as the 
shape of a faith that urges humanity to become more God-like. 

If a particular community's theology is queer in these and other ways, then these 
core queer theological values must find their expression in the community's lived 
experience. As mentioned above, these theological beliefs should become effective in 
that they have a tangible effect on the way members of the community live their lives. 
Further, they should have a tangible effect on the community's corporate life. In other 
words, in queer theological communities, the day-to-day practices of the community and 
individual members of it should noticeably exhibit the character of these values. 
Otherwise, to borrow from the author of James, queer faith without works (actions) is 

Fissures in Integration: Indicators of the Problem 

In her essay, "Attending to the Gaps between Beliefs and Practices," Amy 
Plantinga Pauw notes the "temptation [many people have] to turn to exemplary cases 
when talking about the relationship between beliefs and practices." This is manifest in 

Amy Plantinga Pauw, "Attending to the Gaps between Beliefs and Practices," in Practicing 

Theology, 33. 


the desire to use examples of extraordinary alignment between belief and practice, when 

the actions of particular people or communities unquestioningly demonstrate integrity 

and force. However, she rightly argues that it might be just as, if not more, helpful to 

look at examples of disconnect between belief and practice. 

There is . . . something to be said for looking at efforts by less exemplary believers 
to bridge the troublesome gaps that keep reappearing in various ways between their 
beliefs and practices. Their struggles reveal the continual slippage and compromise 
that occur between these two central aspects of the religious life. . . . The ordinary 
struggles of religious people lay bare the ligaments that hold beliefs and practices 
together. Their struggles reveal how easily these connections become strained and 
broken when admirable belief fails to nurture admirable practice, or when vibrant 
practice fails to stimulate vibrant belief. 144 

Believing that there is definite wisdom in this exhortation to attend to the gaps, I would 

like to explore some examples from my own experience in MCC churches, i.e., churches 

that may be considered at least implicitly as queer theological communities. Each 

example hopes to illustrate a disconcerting gap between a particular queer theological 

value and its lived expression. 

Unless otherwise indicated, these examples come from my experience in the 

congregation where I serve as pastor. MCC of Northern Virginia (MCC NOVA) is a 

suburban congregation with approximately one hundred members, about forty percent 

men and sixty percent women in worship attendance, racially mixed but a large majority 

white and of European descent, more than sixty percent in some way LGBT-identified, 

intergenerational from infant to octogenarian with a median age between forty and sixty, 

generally highly educated, and predominantly middle to upper-middle class. 145 


144 Ibid., 33-34. 

These details are based on my general observations, not on any scientifically collected survey 


Affirming the Goodness of Bodies in General and Sexual Bodies in Particular 

I have argued that a core value of queer theology is the affirmation of the 
goodness of the human body in general, and of sexual bodies, in particular. Metropolitan 
Community Churches have embraced this affirmation, which stands in contrast and 
tension with the body-denying and erotophobic ethos of much of Christian tradition. 
Additionally, MCC claims that one of its primary objectives is to "proudly bear witness 
to the holy integration of sexuality and spirituality." I have had several experiences in 
individual MCC congregations, however, that have indicated a rather wide gap between 
this communal belief and its ability to be expressed in specific lived experiences. One 
recent example from my own congregation should prove a sufficient illustration. 

Earlier this year, we were hosting a regular social event called "First Fridays" on 
the first Friday of every month. At one such event, we showed the movie Rent, the 2005 
film version of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in 
the East Village of New York City struggling with life, love, poverty, drugs, sexuality, 
AIDS, and their impact on America. 147 There was a scene in which the character Mimi 
Marquez was dancing at her place of empl6yment, an erotic dance club called the Cat 
Scratch Club. She sang a song called "Take Me Out Tonight" and her performance was 
fully embodied and sexually suggestive. At one point in the movie, I left the sanctuary 
where we were showing the movie, and I ran into one of my transgender members in the 

Statement of Vision from MCC Strategic Plan, 2005, (accessed 

October 30, 2006). 


Internet Movie Database Description of Rent (2005), 

(accessed October 30, 2006). 


fellowship hall. She was seething with anger and told me that she was upset to the point 
of leaving the church because we were showing the film. She was particularly offended 
by the dance scene and indicated she thought it was "especially inappropriate to have 
anything suggesting sexuality present in the sanctuary." It was the latter — the 
convergence of the holy (epitomized by the church sanctuary) and the embodied/sexual 
— that seemed to be the largest problem for her. 

The incident was complex and layered with many different issues of history and 
personality, as most situations of conflict in churches are. I needn't go into any in-depth 
exploration of these complexities. What I would like to lift up from this experience, 
however, is the way in which someone who has at least some investment in the values of 
queer theology so quickly retreated to the body-denying and erotophobic stance of her 
religious roots when it came to actually experiencing some affirmation of the body and 

1 4R 

sexuality in a spiritual context. Even though she has publicly affirmed a desire to heal 
the division between body and soul and has participated in a number of educational 
events affirming sexuality — and specifically queer sexuality — as a gift from God, there 
was a noticeable gap between those aspirational theological beliefs and their practical 
application. This is illustrative of a fairly persistent gap in queer theological 
communities, in my observation, as unchecked expectations and assumptions come to the 
surface and bring with them the very attitudes and understandings about the body and 
sexuality we aspire to overcome. When "old tapes" get triggered in our minds that repeat 
the messages broadcast by mainstream religious authorities of our childhood and the 

Though, admittedly, it wasn't an overtly "spiritual" event — it was a social event for adults that 
was using our versatile common room that we also use for worship. 


dominant culture at large, we come face to face with internalized oppressions rooted in 
the complex intersection of homophobia, sexism, racism, able-ism, and other embodied 
shame issues. 

Privileging Fluidity over Fixity 

Metropolitan Community Churches were founded with a primary affirming 
theological understanding of gay men and lesbians, which acknowledges the failure of 
fixed categories of gender performance and sexual attraction to adequately represent the 
reality of our lives. Over the course of our history, we have also become more open to 
affirming bisexual and transgender persons, which further illustrates the fluidity of these 
categories. In my own congregation, we've done a lot of work on the issue of 
transgender inclusion and our understanding and acceptance has been stretched in recent 
years as more and more transgender persons have become active and vital members of 
our community. We have had community forums and panels with transsexuals, 
transvestites, and "gender queers" who do not identify as either male/female or who may 
move among and between these categories maintaining an intentional sense of gender 
ambiguity. In the rare instances when we have gender-specific programming, we always 
include the words, "this group is open to any person identifying as male" or "any person 
identifying as female." This is why a recent conflict in my church, illustrative of yet 
another troubling gap between expressed belief and embodied action, caught me 
somewhat off guard. 

My congregation has long been identified as a primarily female congregation. 
Women constitute a majority of those attending worship and activities. Additionally, 


women have taken on most of the leadership roles. I've been doing intentional work to 
encourage, equip, and empower the men in the community to become more involved and 
to help us meet the unique needs of men for spirituality and communal relationships. Out 
of our intentional discussions around this issue, a core group of men expressed a desire 
for a men's Bible discussion group to meet monthly. We talked from the very beginning 
about how we could maintain our commitment to be trans-inclusive and still create 
gender-specific programming. We had explicit conversations about inviting all who 
identified as male, including some of the transmen in our congregation, to fully 
participate. I was taken aback when one of the leaders of this group told me of their 
decision to deny the request of one of our members who had asked to attend. The 
member in question told them s/he identified as male, yet the men in the group did not 
experience him as male and considered him, instead, to be a butch lesbian living in a 
lesbian relationship. (The group actually got together and voted about the person's 
gender and whether they "met the requirements" of the group, which is an entirely 
different problem!) My point is that even though the group had a theoretical 
understanding of the fluidity of gender, they weren't able to move beyond their own 
initial assumptions about a person's gender in order to allow her/him to self-identify. As 
much as we have talked about our conviction that ours will be a safe community that 
supports an individual's right to self-determination in these matters, including the 
creation of space for people to "try on" different gender identities on their journeys 
towards authenticity and wholeness, when the rubber met the road in this case, it skidded 
rather badly. An incongruence between belief and action once again became visible. 


This issue of fluidity vs. fixity may be the greatest challenge for queer theological 
communities. Repeatedly, even as we have appreciated the wiggle room to define 
ourselves, our gendered bodies, and our relationships in ways that transgress 
heteronormative assumptions, we have failed to master an ability to live comfortably with 
ambiguity for long. We seem to long for things to be "pinned down" and we retreat to 
unchecked assumptions about the stability of gender and of relationship configurations. I 
shall return to this later, as this may require the most intentional work on the part of 
leaders of queer theological communities. 

Radical Inclusivity in Christian Community 

Living out a radical inclusivity in Christian community is one of the core values 
of queer theology. It is also a central tenet of MCC congregations around the world. 
"Inclusion" is the first articulated "core value" of MCC, which is further elaborated to 
indicate that "Love is our greatest moral value and resisting exclusion is a primary focus 
of our ministry. We want to continue to be conduits of faith where everyone is included 
in the family of God, and where all parts of our being are welcomed at God's table." 
Most local MCC congregations, including my own, have explicitly articulated this value 
in some way in their own definitional documents. We seek to emulate the life and 
witness of Jesus, who embraced the outcast and passionately advocated for the inclusion 
and honoring of society's most marginalized and vulnerable. However, there exist 

MCC's Core Values as outlined in Strategic Plan, (accessed October 

30, 2006). 


significant gaps between our articulated belief in inclusion as a core theological value and 
our practice of including all people. 

Cindi Love, MCC's Executive Director, recently shared with my congregation 
one such example from her own experience. Love served for a year as the first Pastor 
of MCC of Greater Dallas, a congregation that remained affiliated with MCC after our 
largest church, the Cathedral of Hope, voted to disaffiliate. The members who remained 
had a lot of work to do initially to define themselves as a congregation distinct from the 
Cathedral of Hope megachurch. Inclusivity remained at the core of their self-proclaimed 
identity. They claim that "inclusion and hospitality" are "their principle ethics." 151 Love 
described a significant gap, however, in their belief about the value of inclusivity and 
their ability to embody it in practice. At one point in time, as they were moving from 
building to building in search of a permanent meeting place, the church was located in an 
area very near to a high concentration of the city's homeless population. Love began 
inviting some of these people to participate in worship. Initially, the community accepted 
this without commentary. However, once several of the men accepted Cindi' s invitation 
to sing in the choir not only for worship but also for some special holiday musical events, 
people began to protest. They complained that these homeless, primarily African- 
American men, "stunk" and that their presence was disruptive to the pleasant sense of 
"community" they had begun to enjoy. In subsequent conversations with members of the 
community who threatened to leave the church if these men remained, Love became 

This example was shared with leaders of my church at a recent workshop on financial planning 

held on September 2, 2006 

151 MCC i 
October 30, 2006) 

MCC of Greater Dallas "About Us", (accessed 


convinced that their objections were based in racist and classist assumptions and attitudes 
they were unwilling to acknowledge or critically examine. 

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. Several such examples could be 
given about a troublesome gap between the belief that radical inclusivity is a sacred 
imperative and the practice of actually welcoming all people. Specifically, this becomes 
evident at the intersection of other oppressions. Classism and racism may be the most 
common. Congregations of primarily middle to upper class, white gays and lesbians who 
are largely able to "fit in" to the existing systems of privilege in our society are often 
uneasy with racial diversity or easily detectable differences in socioeconomic status or 
class. Many MCC congregations also have difficulty when more fringe elements of 
queer community are visible, including transgender folks who don't "pass" well, and 
those whose sexual relationships are not mere replicas of monogamous heterosexual 
unions with same-gender partners. For example, those who participate in BDSM or 
leather sexuality, or whose relationships are polyamorous by design, often threaten the 
unity of MCC congregations and find themselves less than fully welcomed. Attention 
must be given to helping integrate more fully the desire for radical inclusivity and its 
actuality in lived experience. 

Transforming the Gaps, Working for Integration 

In using these illustrations of gaps between theological belief and praxis in MCC, 
I do not mean to imply that MCC congregations are necessarily worse than any other 
churches are at achieving "effective faith." However, I do want to be honest about the 
specific work to which MCC congregations need to be attentive. In order to attend to 


some of these gaps and help congregations become more integrated and authentic in their 

expression of queer theological values, the leaders of queer spiritual communities must 

be intentional about continually helping the congregation view their practices and 

corporate life through the lens of these values. "These gaps call for persistent critical 

analysis of the relations and misrelations between beliefs and practices." Pastors have 

a primary responsibility for making sure this happens. They must help draw attention to 

the gaps and invite members of the community to be critically self-reflective at the same 

time as they are creatively imaginative about the positive transformation present as such 

gaps become smaller. For the gaps are not only indicators of a problem, they are also 

indicators of potential. As Terry Veling writes, 

What is a gap, except perhaps a space — a blank space, a space like that of the 
margin? A blank space represents a lack or an absence, yet it also represents a 
hunger or a search. It is as much about what is missing or excluded as it is about 


the hope or vision for what could be, for new possibility. 
Therefore, the practice of intentionally working for integrity in queer spiritual 
communities is a constructive, spiritual practice with the potential to transform 
communities and individual members of them in ways that are liberative and life-giving. 

Strategic Intentionality for Leaders 

MCC pastors have the responsibility and the privilege of helping to develop and 
shape queer theological communities. Being intentional about working for integrity 

i n 

Plantinga Pauw, 41. 

Terry A. Veling, Living in the Margins: Intentional Communities and the Art of Interpretation 

(Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1996), 18. 


between queer theological values and embodied practice is a key strategic function of 
such pastoral leadership. In order to be intentional, I believe pastoral leaders must focus 
energy and attention on articulating queer theological values, drawing attention to the 
ways in which they are - and are not - being practiced, and continually stretching the 
limits of what is considered "normative" in order to make room for queer revelations to 
emerge from the sacred margins. Taking the core queer theological values that I have 
outlined as examples, I will briefly suggest some potential ways in which pastoral leaders 
might be intentional in each area. 

Bodily Celebration and Sexual Boldness 

As much as talk about the "body" is central to Christian theology and 
ecclesiology, most of Christian tradition has treated our concrete physical bodies as 
something of an embarrassment. Christian theology often discusses the "body" of Christ, 
the church as "the body," and "bodies" of theological knowledge. Yet, as Brazilian 
theologian Jaci Maraschin has suggested, these bodies "have usually been bodies without 
flesh, without bones or brains, bodies without nervous systems or blood," 154 and as 
Marcella Althaus-Reid adds, "bodies without menstruation or sweat or without 
malnutrition or without sexual relationships." 15 ' One of the tasks of queer theology — a 
theology that affirms the goodness of human bodies in general and sexual bodies in 
particular — is, as I have argued, to challenge the body-denying and erotophobic ethos of 
mainstream Christian tradition. As Justin Tanis writes: 

154 Maraschin, as cited in Althaus-Reid, The Queer God, 114. 

155 Althaus-Reid, The Queer God, 114. 


The aim of body theology is to examine our bodily experiences as the way in which 
we experience God. The only way that we know God is as embodied people. 
Through our bodies' capacities for sight, sound, emotion, thought, intuition, and 
other senses, we are able to experience the divine. The sacred comes to us through 
our bodies and within our bodies. . . . Our bodies are made in the image and likeness 
of God and are the only ways in which we experience the divine. 

We must begin by bringing our actual physical bodies back into the church and into the 

fullness of our spiritual experience. Pastors of queer churches should talk about the 

sacredness of bodies and about the variety of our particular bodies, including queer 


However, as essential as explicit talk about the body is, it is not enough. Queer 
churches should be centers for the celebration of human embodiment. Bodies should be 
present in worship, not as the embarrassing husks for our spirits that we must necessarily 
bring with us, but as proud instruments of our praise and devotion. Pastors can help their 
communities reclaim an embodied spirituality by making room for the body to be 
celebrated. Worship, as one of the central corporate experiences, should include sacred 
dance, liturgical movement, body prayers, and sacred rituals that include touch. Pastors 
of queer churches will likely find this level of bodily celebration and integration in 
spiritual life to be welcomed by a majority of parishioners. However, when they push 
further to a celebration of the particularities of queer bodies, they may face more 

MCC churches should be places where queer bodies can be acknowledged, 
explored, and celebrated for their particularity. To note a couple of examples that have 
been problematic for some congregations, transgender bodies and bodies with HIV/AIDS 

156 Tanis, 164. 


should be explicitly brought into the light in queer spiritual communities as images of the 

divine. As Tanis writes about the importance of a trans-inclusive body theology, he says: 

Transgendered bodies are the source of our pleasure and our pain, a sign of our 
incongruity and our internal unity. We may struggle with our bodies, rejoice in our 
bodies, weep over the parts present or the parts absent, see our bodies as a prison 
and live to view them as a source of our liberation. Trans bodies are often changing 
bodies, bodies that hold more than one essence, transitional bodies and 
transformational bodies. 

It is essential for queer spiritual communities to be places that celebrate transgender 

bodies in their various configurations. Pastors can help make this happen, for example, 

by including transgender bodies as examples in their preaching and teaching, 

empowering transgender persons to share their body stories in the community, and by 

creating meaningful corporate rituals to honor body transitions. 

Bodies with HIV/AIDS must also be explicitly acknowledged and honored in 

queer spiritual communities. "Although many diseases plague humankind," writes Jim 

Mitulski, "HIV is unique in that the disease is religiously stigmatized, and it affects 

religiously stigmatized people." While HIV/AIDS is undiscriminating in its affect on 

all people, in the disease's history it has tended to be associated with those whose 

sexuality is non-heteronormative, or more specifically, with gay men. Because 

HIV/AIDS affects the church as the "body of Christ" and the queer church to an even 

greater extent, it is imperative that MCC congregations honestly and openly affirm the 

goodness of bodies with HIV/AIDS. Pastors can help congregations do this, for example, 

157 Ibid., 161. 

Jim Mitulski, "Ezekiel Understands AIDS, AIDS Understands Ezekiel, or Reading the Bible 
with HIV," in Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible, ed. Robert E. Goss and Mona West 
(Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2000), 153-154. 


by addressing HIV/AIDS in their preaching and teaching, by including specific prayers 
for a cure for HIV/AIDS, by empowering those infected or affected by HIV/ AIDS to tell 
their own bodily stories (including the candid realities of living with HIV and the 
embodied challenges of managing side effects from HIV medications), and by joining 
with other agencies serving those with HIV/AIDS in collaborative partnerships. 

Queer theology is also a sexual body theology, a theology of bodies in love. To 
bring sexual bodies back into the life of the church requires a sexual boldness on the part 
of pastors. And pastors can face enormous challenges as they claim this responsibility. 
For as much as Christianity has been shaped by the body-denying strains in its tradition, 
the effects of erotophobia are even more deeply entrenched. Pastor's who dare to talk 
openly about sex, especially the realities of the diverse sexual lives queer people lead, 
will face push-back if not downright hostility from those who cannot separate sex from 
shame. However, queer theology insists that sexuality is a good gift from God and that 
our sexual relationships are indeed avenues for discovering and experiencing the divine. 
Queer theologian Marcella Althaus-Reed insists that, "In queer theology, the grounding 
of the theological reflection lies in human relationships for ... it is in scenes of intimacy 
and the epistemology provided by those excluded from the political heterosexual project 
in theology that unveilings of God may occur." 15 One of the things pastors can do is to 
"highlight the 'ordinariness' of love and sexuality" and to create safe places where people 
can be honest about their own sexual experiences. It can be especially helpful in queer 

159 Althaus-Reid, The Queer God, 114. 

160 Ibid. 


theological communities to open up a dialogue about sexual ethics that does justice to the 
reality of our lives and helps us navigate systems for relating ethically with one another 
that are not bogged down in heterosexism and are rooted in justice-love. 

Making Peace with Liminality 

As I mentioned previously, I believe one of the most significant challenges for the 
leaders of queer spiritual communities lies in their calling to nurture community and 
spiritual growth amidst the perpetual presence of ambiguity. By and large, people are not 
comfortable with ambiguity or uncertainty for long. This is obviously a challenge for 
queer spiritual communities since fluidity is a core queer theological value and change a 
constant organizational characteristic. Helping the community navigate this tension 
requires a commitment on the part of pastors and leaders to resist the full force of the 
centralizing, normalizing, and stabilizing tendencies present in congregations. It further 
requires them to nurture and utilize the transformational power of liminality. 

Building on the work of Arnold van Gennep concerning rites of passage, Victor 
Turner understood liminality to refer to an intermediary condition, something that is 
neither here nor quite there. For example, in rites of passage there is an initial step in 
which a person leaves his/her old state of life, then the liminal stage where s/he exists 
"betwixt and between," before a final stage when s/he receives a new status and is 
reincorporated. Turner "argues that liminality is not simply a negative period of 
privation, but rather a powerful spiritual experience in its own right. It is a sort of seed- 

161 Marvin M. Ellison, Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality (Louisville, Kentucky: 
Westminster John Knox, 1996), 4. 


1 f\~) 

bed for spiritual, artistic, and cultural creativity." Pastors have a particular role to play 

in helping congregations experience the creative potential of liminality. Timothy Carson 


The religious leader is strategically positioned, both in terms of specific roles 
within faith communities and also by virtue of a particular theological worldview, 
to be an extremely important ritual guide to individuals, groups and social and 
ecclesial systems upon entrance into liminal states within passages. The pastoral 
leader may approach liminal reality with unique fields of meaning which are 
frequently more applicable to liminal reality than those of other schools of 
thought. 163 

This is all the more true of pastors of queer spiritual communities because liminality is 

the essence of queer; it is the space between identities if not the disruptor of identities, 

and it is a constant characteristic of queer church. This liminal characteristic of queer 

communities, if it can be nurtured and people can make peace with living in it for 

extended periods of time, is one of its richest sources of spiritual depth, vitality, and 

meaning. The liminal stage is 

the most power-laden time for transformation . . . one of departure from structure or 
homeostasis, wherein expectations may be challenged, unspeakable subjects 
discussed and new roles tested. This may include an experimental playfulness and 
freedom with roles, thoughts, and behavior which are uncharacteristic of those 
found in ongoing structural relationships. 

H. Boone Porter Jr., "Liminal Mysteries: Some Writings by Victor Turner," Anglican 
Theological Review 57, no. 2 (April 1975): 215. 


Timothy L. Carson, "Liminal Reality and Transformational Power: Pastoral Interpretation and 

Method," Journal of Pastoral Theology 7 (Summer 1997): 105. 
164 Ibid., 109. 


Because queer spiritual communities are liminal communities, they have a unique 

potential to tap into this power, and I believe it represents the greatest gift the queer 

church offers the broader church and world. 

An egalitarian community free from the oppressive forces of heterosexism, racism, 

classism, and other forms of oppression that tend to spoil and corrupt Christian 

community can at least come into vision through liminal queer experience. A special 

camaraderie develops between those sharing liminal space and experience, which Turner 

calls "communitas. " 

This is a bond which transcends any socially established differentiations. Those 
who share the liminal passage develop a community of the inbetween. A 
significant sharing of the liminal passage creates strong egalitarian ties which level 
out differences in status and station which have been established by structure." 165 

The creation of this type of community, which we might rightly argue is the 

eschatological hope for the church, should not be underestimated as a positive potential 

of queer spiritual communities. Pastoral leaders should be mindful of this potential and 

intentionally work to foster engagement in liminal relationships and practices that will 

nurture it. 

On a very basic practical level, for example, pastors may help the community 

explore the assumptions about gender that they make about one another. Systemic 

anxiety can be expressed when, for example, those previously understood as male or 

female decide to explore a different gender expression from androgyny to gender-queer 

to male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM) transsexual. If education about 

transgender issues has been consistently present in a congregation and transgender 

165 Ibid., 101. 


persons are active in the life of the community, this anxiety can be lessened. However, it 

should be noted that, generally speaking, congregations will be more comfortable with 

those who fully transition or identify as transgender than with those who claim and 

occupy a space in between or who choose not to disclose their stories of gender 

transition. The tendency to normalize and create fixed categories by which one can label 

oneself or others once-and-for-all is a constant challenge for marginal comm unities. 

Pastors can aid congregations if they will intentionally stand with them in the margins 

and provide a non-anxious presence. They can also help slow the normalizing tendency 

if they will consistently and openly queer (i.e., the verb meaning to subvert, spoil, or 

challenge) the formation of attitudes or structures based in fixity. This has application 

not only for matters of gender and sexuality, but also for broader ecclesial issues. 

In his book about intentional communities, Terry Veling describes the marginal 

nature of intentional Christian communities. While I doubt he had churches such as 

MCC in mind, I believe his description is incredibly applicable to the nature of queer 

spiritual communities. 

Marginal Christian communities recognize that there are many ways in which the 
center no longer holds in their experience of tradition and society. They challenge 
dominant orderings of patriarchy in their quest for renewed feminist expression; 
they seek more inclusive and participatory structures over against hierarchical and 
clericalized structures; they turn their attention to ecological issues in the face of an 
overly technologized world; they are concerned with the causes of indigenous and 
Third World cultures in the face of dominant Euro-centric traditions. They are 
seeking alternate theologies, spiritualities, and practices casting their 'voice from 
the margins over the whole social-symbolic order, questioning its rules, terms, 
procedures, and practices.'" 1 

166 Veling, 11. 


Indeed, this language resonates with MCC's strategic plan and future vision. 
MCC also fits the description of a community whose "critical attention is directed largely 
at the alienation they experience from the institutional church." Metropolitan 
Community Churches were birthed as communities in exile from mainstream 
Christianity, which excluded sexual/gender outsiders in degrees varying from patronizing 
tolerance to spiritual and physical violence. MCC churches remain marginal, in some 
contexts by choice due to their commitment to queer spirituality, and in other contexts by 
their uniqueness in offering a welcoming spiritual home to LGBT people. Thus, MCC 
congregations "exercise what Edward Schillebeeckx calls 'a loyal opposition' or 
'provisional illegality' with respect to the institutional church's current disciplines and 
structures." However, here also there is a tendency to centralize and normalize. 
Unfortunately, MCC congregations will often do the difficult work to deconstruct 
theologies and systems that exclude their members on the basis of a gay or lesbian 
identity, only to reconstruct theologies and systems that exclude other marginalized 
people. Which leads me to the final strategic issue for pastoral leadership, that of 
developing and nurturing a radical inclusivity and hospitality in Christian community. 

Widening the Welcome — Nurturing Radical Inclusivity and Hospitality 

Radical inclusivity is a core queer theological value, and the act of resisting 
exclusion in all its forms is a stated goal of MCC. 169 However, we have yet to 

167 Schillebeeckx, as quoted in Veling, 1 1. 

168 Veling, 11. 

Statement of Vision from MCC Strategic Plan, 2005, (accessed 
October 30, 2006). 


completely embody this in our congregational lives. Whether it's because we get too 
comfortable with who's "in" the community and simply neglect to reach out to others, or 
because we have unchecked prejudices that send implicit or explicit messages of rejection 
to others based on their actual or perceived race, gender or sexual expression, relationship 
configuration, class, or economic status; there are gaps between our desired form of 
radical inclusivity/hospitality and our practice. Pastors can do queer spiritual 
communities a great service simply by naming this reality and asking questions like 
"Who isn't here?" or "What would our reaction be if someone from our neighborhood 
with little in common with us arrived?" Asking the questions and inviting people to 
bring both their reality and their imagination into conversation with their core value of 
inclusivity can be a wonderful strategy for weaving the connections between belief and 

There is also a big difference between diverse people inhabiting the same physical 
space for an hour or two on Sunday morning and the same people having a genuine sense 
of community. Our core queer theological value of inclusivity insists on both of these 
things being true. In order to nurture community between diverse people, the leaders of 
queer spiritual communities have to create opportunities for relationship building. One 
significant way of doing this is to provide space for and encourage people to participate 
in sharing their stories. Yvette Flunder writes: 

1 nr\ 

It is quite common for MCC congregations, because of our outreach, to be disconnected from 
our actual geographical communities. People come to us as chosen community generally because they are 
seeking queer community. The example used earlier in this paper about MCC Greater Dallas and the 
homeless population surrounding their meeting place illustrates a troublesome disconnect with the struggle 
and experience of other marginalized people in our neighborhoods who are not "us." 


I have found that it is of vital importance that people who have been silent and 
silenced far too long be given an opportunity to give voice to their struggle. Secrets 
kill and silence often equals death. People often speak forth the answers to their 
own issues as they talk it out in a supportive environment. It also has a purgative 
effect on the teller of the story. Shadows are no longer threatening when the light 
shines on them; when the secret is exposed, the demon is uncovered and rendered 
powerless. The experiences that at one time horrified now become a resource from 
which to draw life, both for the teller and the listener. In order for a community to 
share in each other's failures and triumphs, occasions must be provided for 

1 71 

testifying and sharing . . . even those things that appear obvious. 
Beyond the benefits Flunder describes so well, this type of storytelling creates an 
opportunity for people to connect around the realities of their lives and build relationships 
that are mutually respectful, understanding, and supportive. Really hearing the 
experience of someone unlike us is often the very thing that opens our minds and our 
hearts to connect with them in solidarity. This is demonstrated well in the recurrent 
testimony of those who have changed their minds about gay and lesbian issues only after 
a close friend "came out" to them about their own sexual orientation. The same is true, in 
my experience, of those with no understanding of transgender experience when they 
actually listen to a transgender person describe their life and struggle for authenticity. 

Another thing that the pastoral leader of a queer spiritual community can do is to 
help the congregation develop a welcoming atmosphere for those not yet included in the 
community. For example, in his chapter about creating a genuine welcome for trans 
people in communities of faith, Justin Tanis argues that intentionality and planning are 
key. "You want to convey to transgendered people that we are both expected and 
welcomed at your community." This means that education of the community has to 

171 Flunder, 39. 

172 Tanis, 122. 


come first. Before they can be truly inclusive, the community must have an enlightened 
understanding of gender issues and the instability of fixed gender identities. They must 
be ready to use appropriate language, including pronouns that match a person's current or 
preferred gender presentation. They must have planned ahead to have bathrooms and 
programs that are accessible to the gender-variant (options for "men" and "women" leave 
out many). They should have in place explicitly welcoming policies or statements that 
refer to the transgendered. The same can be true for any other group of people that the 
church wishes to make welcome. 

Inclusivity can be challenging for the community when their comfort zones are 
stretched and when they are forced to confront their own prejudices. Pastoral care for 
those who are struggling with the demands of inclusive community should not be 
neglected as a powerful way of helping the community integrate its desire for equality 
and inclusion with its practice. Pastors should be attentive to the struggles people are 
having, initiate safe conversations where they can honestly admit the nature of their 
resistance, and pray for understanding and tolerance when these aren't coming easily. To 
"naturalize" the growing pains that come along with boundary crossing can be an 
affirming pastoral function that then frees people to live through the growing pain rather 
than retreat from it and/or avoid dealing with it altogether. 

There is also great power in the rites and sacraments of the church to help a 
spiritual community envision and live into its nature as radically inclusive Christian 
community. In MCC, the sacrament of communion is perhaps the best example of this. 
The eucharist provides an open table where none are excluded from full participation as 
their most authentic selves. The communion table is the great equalizer where there is no 


first and last, no least and greatest, and where there is "enough bread and enough love for 
all." These ritual elements have a tremendous potential to create meaning and to 
expand the understanding of who is included in the community of faith. Pastors can use 
their creative imaginations to imbue these sacraments with teaching and transforming 
power that helps the community live into its best vision of itself. 

Further Implications for MCC 

If theology is to mean anything at all, then our theological thinking — our beliefs 
about God and about faith — must find their fullest expression in our actions — the day- 
to-day practices in which we engage as individual people of faith and as corporate 
spiritual communities. A primary responsibility of leaders of spiritual communities is to 
help them attend to this integrity between belief and praxis. In queer spiritual 
communities, this means helping the congregation, and individual members of it, 
articulate core queer theological values and translate those values into actions that 
embody them. This requires a careful intentionality on the part of spiritual leaders, a 
willingness to stretch the congregation far enough (but not too far) to attend to the gaps 
that exist between their belief and their praxis, and to shape the sort of community that is 
more integral. While this is a challenging task, if leaders are willing to take on their 
responsibility to be intentional about it, there is tremendous potential for the community 
and individual members of it to experience a spiritual transformation with benefits that 

1 T\ 

Edgard Danielsen-Morales uses this phrase to describe the fundamental needs as imagined in 
the Eucharist. He is informed by the work of Latin American liberation theologian Elsa Tamez. Personal 
communication, December 21, 2007. 


extend far beyond themselves. If MCC congregations are to be queer spiritual 
communities that claim the blessing of marginality, then MCC pastors must develop 
particular skills as body theologians adept at helping people make peace with liminality, 
and who will hospitably invite into that creatively charged spiritual space the most 
inclusive mix of people. Perhaps most basically, this requires leaders to be 
knowledgeable about the dynamics of change and confident about leading congregations 
through cycles of change. It is to this important task that we will now turn. 

The MCC Strategic Plan articulates this clearly in saying, "In the margins, we are blessed." 
Statement of Purpose from MCC Strategic Plan, 2005, (accessed October 30, 



Dealing with change is one of the most difficult and persistent challenges facing 
church communities. When change takes place, regardless of how welcome the change is 
or how well it is managed, it can be easily guaranteed that a certain number of people are 
likely to leave the community, either for the duration of the most tense period of the 
change process or permanently. If this is true for faith communities in general, it is 
exponentially truer for queer churches. The very nature of queer church, which I have 
elsewhere described in detail, is to be a community in a perpetual state of significant and 
intentional change. Many of the characteristics people find most difficult about change 
— such as the presence of ambiguity and the destabilization of previously "known" or 
presumed essential structures, identities, or roles — are core values and/or intentional 
disciplines of queer churches. Consequently, it is essential for effective pastors of queer 
spiritual communities to understand the dynamics of change and to develop skills at 
leading change in the congregation. In this chapter, I will explore some of the 
characteristics of change as it is experienced individually and corporately through the 
specific lens of MCC. I will then attempt to describe some practical skills that pastors 
might develop to increase their effectiveness at leading change. 

One of the reasons that change is such a constant challenge for MCC is that we 
aspire to be countercultural, intentionally marginal communities that exist in a constant 
state of active resistance to the status quo of our society. This resistance is motivated by 
the fact that the status quo of our society is upheld by unjust power structures and policies 
that privilege certain people by neglecting or oppressing others. I would argue that this 


resistance is a fundamental calling for Christian communities in general; however, most 
churches fall significantly short of realizing these aspirations. For example, nearly every 
mainstream Christian denomination today is embroiled in heated discussions about the 
question of whether or not (and to what degree ) to openly welcome and affirm gay 
men and lesbians in the community — debates that include very real threats of schism, if 
not active follow-through on these threats from those unwilling to continue the dialogue. 
This reality is rooted in resistance to change, specifically a change from the norms 
enforced by the hetero-patriarchal system of domination. For MCC, this debate predates 
our history. We can confidently say that we have moved further on the journey of 
liberation in this regard, to a place where we have decided that we will not only welcome 
and affirm individuals who self-identify as gay men and lesbians, but that we will 
proudly celebrate the sacred gift of sexual love and commitment between people of the 

i nz 

same gender. ' ' Even further, we have decided that we will welcome and celebrate 
bisexual people, transgender people, intersex people, and those who identify as queer. 

These open and affirming movements are known by many names: More Light in the 
Presbyterian Church U.S.A., ONA in the United Qhurch of Christ, Reconciling in the United Methodist 
Church, Welcoming & Affirming in the American Baptist Church, etc. Most of them are minority 
movements on the margins of these mainstream denominations, and are often not even considered 
legitimate by the power structure. Further, there are degrees to which churches who consider themselves 
open and affirming will include LGBT people. It is sometimes the case that gay men and lesbians who are 
in active relationships will not be accepted as full members of the church or will not be permitted to 
participate in various official lay leadership capacities. It is often the case that gay men and lesbians will 
not be considered suitable candidates for ordination, and even in those churches that do ordain openly gay 
or lesbian people, there are few local congregations that will actually call these individuals as pastor. It is 
almost always the case that these open and affirming churches will not perform official marriages or 
blessings of same-sex relationships. And, perhaps even more universally, these communities will be much 
less tolerant of openly bisexual people, transgender people (especially those who don't "pass" well), and 
people on the margins of queer community such as members of the pan-sexual leather community or those 
in open or polyamorous relationships. 

The nuance here is significant, as some churches only welcome self-identified, but "non- 
practicing" or celibate, gay men or lesbians. 


Many of our churches have also made the commitment to create communities inclusive 
of those whose expressions of sexuality are non-normative in other ways and whose 
relationship configurations and covenants are neither monogamous nor binary. All of 
these commitments are radically countercultural to the dominant norms in the United 
States, and queer churches can be proud of these aspirations and the instances in which 
we have successfully lived into them. However, as I have discussed in previous chapters, 
we also fall short of them when we encounter within ourselves the very prejudices that 
have wounded us, prejudices that result from our own enculturation in the norms of our 
racist, classist, sexist, and heterosexist society. It makes sense that change in the form of 
shifting away from these various -isms, which the dominant systems and structures of 
both church and society seek to monitor and reinforce at every turn, would require 
significant and sustained effort. Yet, this is a task central to the calling and purpose of 
queer churches, as I understand them. In order to successfully coach, companion, and 
inspire churches to make these kinds of changes, pastors must become effective change 

Some Dynamics of Adaptive Change in MCC 

Frequently, in periods of frustration when the tension of living with change and 
ambiguity become too great, church members will often come to the pastor demanding 
s/he do something to "fix" whatever they perceive is wrong or broken. Unfortunately, 
few (if any) of the challenges that need to be addressed in order to create authentic and 
inclusive queer congregations have any quick fix, nor are they challenges that can be met 
by the pastor alone. Rather, they are complicated and lengthy processes of change that 


require constant evaluation, adaptation, and innovation in the community as a whole. In 

their excellent book on this topic, Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky categorize these 

types of changes as "adaptive challenges." They write: 

There are a whole host of problems that are not amenable to authoritative 
expertise or standard operating procedures. They cannot be solved by someone 
who provides answers from on high. We call these adaptive challenges because 
they require experiments, new discoveries, and adjustments from numerous places 
within the organization or community. Without learning new ways — changing 
attitudes, values, behaviors — people can not make the adaptive leap necessary to 
thrive in the new environment. The sustainability of change depends on having 


the people with the problem internalize the change itself. 

This is precisely the type of challenge that I believe is most common in MCC 
congregations, specifically as we make the attempt to become authentic queer 
communities. The challenges confronting queer churches are adaptive because we 
envision a type of radically inclusive and egalitarian community that does not yet exist, 
and we must intentionally deconstruct the normative and normalizing structures of 
dominant culture (e.g., sexism, erotophobia, biologically determined gender polarity, 
heterosexism, racism, classism, etc.), which are insidious, complicated, and systemic. 
This requires us to experiment, make new discoveries, and equip numerous facets of the 
community to make adjustments, change attitudes and behaviors, and be intentionally 
reflective in examining deeply ingrained beliefs, prejudices, and previously unquestioned 
assumptions about what is valuable, ethical, and moral. 

Adaptive challenges are not easy to make, for individuals or for organizations. 
This is part of the reason people resist these types of changes, even when they are 

1 77 

Ronald A. Heifetz and Martin Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the 
Dangers of Leading, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002), 13. 


changes necessary to bring about what those who resist them most long for. As Heifetz 
and Linsky explain, "Adaptive change stimulates resistance because it challenges 

i no 

people's habits, beliefs, and values." In queer communities, this resistance is increased 
by a couple of intersecting factors. First, we are rewarded with privileges, affirmation, 
and legitimization (from institutional and cultural authorities) for continuing the very 
habits, beliefs, and values we want to see changed. Secondly, the alternative habits, 
beliefs, and values we hope will replace existing norms are often deemed sinful or 
immoral by society at large, our friends and families whose opinions matter to us, and 
even our own internal voices. Additionally, all adaptive change "asks [people] to take a 
loss, experience uncertainty, and even express disloyalty to people and cultures. Because 
adaptive change forces people to question and perhaps redefine aspects of their identity, it 

1 HQ 

also challenges their sense of competence." Heifetz and Linksy are correct when they 
observe, "Loss, disloyalty, and feeling incompetent: That's a lot to ask. No wonder 
people resist." It is important for MCC pastors to acknowledge that people are risking 
a great deal in the effort to create queer spiritual communities and to treat with respect 
and sensitivity the feelings that result from that risking. 

Let me provide an example that builds on one offered in the previous chapter and 
which engages a number of these aspects of change theory. My congregation embraces 
the core value of inclusivity that is held in common by MCC congregations around the 
world and which is a core queer theological value. We further describe what we mean by 

178 Ibid., 30. 

179 Ibid. 

180 Ibid. 


this with the claim that "We commit ourselves by word and deed to dismantle barriers 
between individuals and between individuals and God." One of the aspects of 
inclusion that we have attempted to work for in the past several years is the issue of 
including transgender members. I earlier described some of the ways we have attempted 
to remove structural and attitudinal barriers for our transgender members. However, we 
occasionally fall short of our own best efforts when we confront within ourselves sexism 
and transphobia characterized most fundamentally by an extraordinary discomfort with 
ambiguity. I was recently approached by a member of the community who said in 
exasperation, "We're not inclusive like we say we want to be." Internally, I thought, 
"You're absolutely right about that; what are you going to do about it?" Instead, I asked 
her to sit down with me to discuss some examples of specific situations that we might be 
able to address together. She reminded me about her partner's experience of being 
excluded by the men's discussion group. Additionally, this couple is adopting two 
young children who have begun calling the woman's partner "Daddy," because the 
partner's self understanding is as a "father figure" in their lives. This has also met with 
some disapproval from other members of the community who are uncomfortable with the 
transgression of same-sex parental norms that this type of role identification implies. 
Some women have protested this and indicated they thought it was "too confusing" for 

1 Q 1 

"Core Values," Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia. 

See pages 67-8 for the full explanation of this case study. 

It is important to note that there are normalizing tendencies within any homogenized group of 
people. The desire for clear boundaries and easy categorization is one that leads to a certain stability 
people find comforting. LGBT couples are far from being immune to creating their own systems of 
domination that further exclude and marginalize others. 


the boys. Ironically, this is the very same claim that had been leveled at the primary 

complainant many years ago when she and her same-sex partner had children, though at 

that time it was because people thought it was confusing for her children to have two 

women as parents. Incidentally, they found (as do most parents of whatever gender and 

sexual orientation) that being good parents has more to do with the quality of love, 

nurture, and support they are able to provide than any personal characteristic they may or 

may not have. Nevertheless, the reaction of this woman who objected to the use of the 

word "Daddy" illustrates the insidious nature of gender rigidity and relational 


Several aspects of this situation are worthy of comment. It is noticeable that the 

woman who initially approached me had identified a problem, wanted a solution, and 

wanted me to both discover what that solution was and implement it. She was looking 

for a technical fix to an adaptive challenge. Initially, she also wanted to give this work to 

me — the authority figure — rather than take on any responsibility herself for working 

on the solution. This response is common, as Heifetz and Linsky note, 

People expect you to get right in there and fix things, to take a stand and resolve 
the problem. After all, that is what people in authority are paid to do. When you 
fulfill their expectations, they will call you admirable and courageous, and this is 
flattering. But challenging their expectations of you requires even more 



It is indeed tempting to try to fix problems like this and thus demonstrate one's 
competency as a leader. However, because this is not a problem with a technical fix, 
trying to offer one is counterproductive. "By trying to solve adaptive challenges for 

184 Ibid., 127. 


people, at best you will reconfigure it as a technical problem and create some short-term 


relief. But the issue will not have gone away. It will surface again." In this instance, 
it was important for me to listen, to explore some potential ways to begin addressing the 
immediate problem, and to make some observations about the larger and more systemic 
issues of sexism and transphobia that perpetuate the types of attitudes and behaviors that 

I o/r 

were clearly not inclusive. It was also important that I was able to "give the work 
back" to this woman, her partner, and the larger community. Not that I would be a 
disinterested or detached party. On the contrary, I will and have been very involved; 
however, solving the larger adaptive challenge is work that can only be done 
collaboratively. I will later return to a more detailed discussion of leadership style, which 
values collaboration as a primary relational resource. 

In the case of the mens' discussion group, it is also interesting to note the multiple 
levels of privilege that must be deconstructed. The group is fairly homogenously 
comprised of white, upper-middle class men who identify as gay males. The primary 
common obstacle they have faced on their spiritual journeys has to do with the 
heterosexism they have encountered in the church and society. I believe they would 
identify this as the -ism that has marginalized and wounded them. They sought out the 
community of MCC first and foremost because they wanted to find a community that 
would radically welcome and celebrate them as gay men. The privilege of heterosexism 
was thus the privilege they needed to deconstruct in order to find a comfortable place for 

185 Ibid., 123. 

Chapter 6 of Heifetz and Linsky contains a detailed and very helpful discussion of how to give 
the work back, which includes strategies of "making observations, asking questions, offering interpretations, 
and taking actions." I will return to this discussion later in this paper. Ibid., 123-139. 


themselves to participate most authentically in the church. It is important to note that this 
urge, originating out of self-interest, is natural. Most of us find our primary actions 
determined by a care/concern for ourselves or those we love. That having been said, we 
can also observe that oppressed people who achieve this objective too often stop their 
deconstruction of privilege and resistance to the oppression of the marginalized after this 
feat has been achieved for themselves. For example, white, upper-middle-class, gay men 
do not, on the whole, immediately think they need to notice or resist sexism, racism, 
classism, or transphobia. 

At this point, it may be helpful to explore briefly how privilege functions. There 
are many layers to the privileges we are granted by hetero-patriarchal society based on a 
number of factors, including our gender (male is judged better than female, congruity 
between biological sex and gender identity is judged better than incongruity, stability at 
one end of the male- female spectrum is judged better than somewhere in the middle), our 
economic status (richer is judged better than poorer), the pigmentation of our skin (lighter 
is judged better in most racialized systems), our nationality, our sexual orientation 
(heterosexual is judged better than homosexual, homosexual is often judged better than 
bisexual), our physical appearance and ability (pretty is judged better than ugly — though 
what determines this is highly dependent on culture, able-bodied is judged preferable to 
having a disability), partnership status (monogamous and married are generally judged 

i on 

Ironically, it is often the case that gay men are judged most harshly for their transgression of 
gender norms (e.g. acting in ways that are more feminine than masculine, or becoming a passive or 
receptive party in the act of sexual intercourse, which is traditionally viewed as the role appropriate for a 
woman.) Sexism and misogyny may indeed be the foundation for what we commonly refer to as 
"homophobia." This is not, in my experience, something that gay men are automatically aware of, though 
many of them who have come to understand themselves as feminists are quite adept at exploring the 
nuanced relationship between these intersecting oppressions. 


better than single, polyamorous, or promiscuous), etc. These intersecting privileges have 
been described as pyramids or hierarchies of privilege, though they are much more 
chaotically interconnected than a linear or hierarchical system suggests. It is not always 
the case that someone who may deconstruct one or more of these privileges is necessarily 
aware of how others of them function. And it is also the case that those of us who are 
enculturated in a society based on all of these privileges have internalized all of them to 
some extent. We may or may not choose to act on them, but we must acknowledge their 
presence and persistent, subtle power. 

I mentioned earlier that white, upper-middle-class, gay men do not automatically 
think they need to deconstruct racism, sexism, classism, or transphobia. In drawing 
attention to this matter, I do not in any way mean to judge these men more harshly than 
any other segment of humanity. I could just as easily discuss the ways in which white, 
upper-middle-class, lesbian women do not automatically think they need to recognize, 
understand, or actively resist classism, transphobia, or the unique ways in which 
homophobia functions in the lives of gay men. Or the ways in which some transgender 
people continue to make strong moral judgments against gays and lesbians. However, I 
use the example of white, upper-middle-class, gay men because this is the primary 
constituency of our mens' discussion group, and the presenting problem of them 
excluding the male-identified person in question brings these issues of intersecting 
oppressions to the surface. I cannot overstate how central this dynamic is to the creation 
of queer spiritual communities. Overcoming the complex intersection of oppressions is 
probably the largest adaptive challenge we face in MCC. We will not be able to become 
the type of communities we know we are called to be — radically inclusive, egalitarian, 


hospitable, and spiritually vibrant communities — unless we remain vigilant about 
monitoring and managing the adaptive challenges that arise when we encounter our own 
prejudices and the exclusive attitudes and behaviors they promote. In this specific case, 
some observations need to be made and explored that draw these connections and point 
out the gap between the groups' aspirational objectives and their apparent inability to 
successfully achieve them. 

To provide one additional example on this same general topic, I have another 
transgender member who has recently begun her real life test, i.e., the time when her 
gender presentation will more closely than ever before match her self-understanding and 
she will present female in nearly every facet of her life. Prior to her coming out in this 
way, she had a male name and presented male in our congregation; I was the only one 
who knew she identified as transgender. Presenting male, she participated actively in a 
small group educational series we were facilitating at this time. A number of weeks ago, 
she began participating with her new chosen name and a female gender presentation. I 
was aware that this change was perceived by some other members of the class as 
disorienting. Primarily, I think it invoked their feelings of incompetency. They wanted 
to trust their intuition that this was the same person they had known and engaged with for 
weeks, and they had doubts and questions they weren't sure how to raise. They felt silly 
and anxious that they would make a mistake by using the wrong name or slipping up on a 
pronoun. It was destabilizing because they intuitively felt like the dynamics of the group 
had changed, yet there was no change in the personalities around the table. Because I 
was unaware that she was making her debut on this particular evening, I improvised a 
strategy to help the group live through this change in the short term. I hoped also, and 


perhaps most importantly, to ensure that this experience was an empowering and 
affirming one for our courageous transgender sister. My strategy was to model an 
appropriate use of language by warmly greeting her by her chosen name, and by finding a 
way to naturally use a sentence in which I could refer to her in the third person and 
thereby model correct (feminine) pronoun usage. This seemed to be effective at 
addressing these particular issues of concern. It is important to note that they were short- 
term technical fixes about subjects of anxiety in other class members, but they were only 
minor aspects of the larger adaptive challenge we face in becoming a truly trans-inclusive 
group. As Heifetz and Linsky note, most significant changes involve both technical fixes 
and adaptive challenges. Strategically dealing with the technical aspects of the 
problem well can buy leaders time to help the organization deal with the more 
challenging adaptive aspects. Interestingly, the following week in the class, this 
person newly in transition was not present. Feeling somewhat more free to explore her 
discomfort with this change, one woman in the group confessed that she had thought she 
dealt with her transphobia and her discomfort with people in gender transition many 
years ago when she came to know and love another transwoman in the community. 
However, she admitted that she was now feeling similar feelings of resistance to gender 
change in this circumstance. Part of the reason for her renewed resistance is due to the 
fact that this particular transperson brings her two children to church. To her credit, the 
woman who was feeling uncomfortable was able to recognize some unchecked biases she 
had, not about whether it was appropriate for someone to make a gender transition, but 

188 Ibid., 22. 

189 Ibid., 18. 


about the fitness of a transperson to be a parent. She was also able to articulate the fact 
that she did not like to admit this judgmentalism about herself, and that she was eager to 
explore this as an opportunity to challenge herself to become more inclusive. 

The example of transgender inclusion is only one example of many possible that 
provides a glimpse into the complex adaptive changes facing MCC congregations which 
aspire to become radically inclusive queer spiritual communities. However, it is one of 
the best examples available, because it very quickly illustrates the types of prejudices, 
attitudes, and behaviors that must be challenged in order for congregations to live into 
their core values and best vision of themselves. Deconstructing the myriad normativities 
monitored and reinforced by the white, hetero-patriarchical traditions of our church and 
society is a huge task, and yet it is perhaps the foundational and most persistent task of 
queer church, as I understand it. 

Leadership Styles and Strategies 

Earlier, I mentioned my conviction that solving the larger adaptive challenges 
facing MCC is work that can only be done collaboratively. This recognition becomes 
extraordinarily important in determining appropriate leadership styles and strategies. It 
seems important to note at the beginning of this discussion that there are a number of 
different leadership styles, many of which have a lot to do with personality type and 
individual experience. I do not intend to say that there is only one leadership style or set 
of strategies appropriate for leaders in MCC. However, I do want to explore some 
aspects of leadership styles and strategies that might be important for pastors in MCC to 
incorporate into their repertoire. Because adaptive challenges are complex challenges 


that a leader cannot fix from on high with a technical remedy, leading change in a 

congregation requires more mutual and collaborative strategies of leadership than 

typically encouraged by more traditional (and patriarchal ) understandings of how to 

exercise pastoral authority. Heifetz and Linsky put it this way: 

In mobilizing adaptive work, you have to engage people adjusting their unrealistic 
expectations, rather than try to satisfy them as if the situation were amenable 
primarily to a technical remedy. You have to counteract their exaggerated 
dependency and promote their resourcefulness. This takes an extraordinary level 
of presence, time, and artful communication ... 

Scott Cormode characterizes the more traditional use of authority as structural 
authority which relies on structural resources in order to be effective. Structural 
resources include such things as hierarchical systems, laws (or by-laws), and material 
resources. Structural power is the power to compel and structural authority is "delineated 
and unambiguous." A typical response to the question "Why are we changing this?" 
from a person rooted in structural understandings of power and authority might be 
something like, "Because I said so!" or "Because I'm the Pastor, that's why!" In my 
opinion, it is very rare that pastoral authority needs to rely primarily on structural 
resources and their coercive use of power. Rather, pastoral authority more appropriately 
draws on cultural authority and cultural resources. Cormode describes cultural resources 
as resources that must be interpreted by a leader who helps make meaning of them. 

It is important to note that traditionally patriarchal ways of exercising power are employed and 
perpetuated by all types of people in a culture that is hetero-patriarchally normative, including people of all 

191 Heifetz and Linsky, 15. 

Scott Cormode, Making Spiritual Sense: Christian Leaders as Spiritual Interpreters, 
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006), 67. 


Cultural resources include symbols, stories, signs, and other building blocks that 
construct meaning and "ground the congregation in its own idiom." Leaders 
exercising cultural authority serve an interpretive function, in part, because "cultural 
resources cannot be unambiguously accumulated" and "are more ethereal than structural 
resources." 194 Whereas structural resources often use compelling and coercive power, 
cultural resources generally rely on persuasive power. Cultural authority is not given 
because hierarchical structures assign and demand it, but rather because it is freely given 
by those who recognize it. 195 Cultural authority is persuasive and rhetorical. Pastors who 
use this type of authority have an opportunity to inspire their congregations to change and 
grow, but not force them. According to Cormode, this is a more appropriate type of 
pastoral authority, and relying on such cultural resources allows pastors to exercise a 
fundamentally different type of leadership than the top-down model common in our 
society at large and, perhaps in particular, in the corporate world of business. 

Collaborative leadership characterized by the use of power with and not over 
others also requires leaders to develop skills at being leader-participants. In other words, 
pastors need to find ways that they can both be a part of the group working on change 
together and offer the types of leadership that congregations expect and need from them. 
Heifetz and Linsky use the metaphors of dance floors and balconies in order to describe 
this art. 

193 Ibid., 69. 

194 Ibid., 67. 

195 Ibid., 68. 

196 Ibid., 69. 


Let's say you are dancing in a big ballroom with a balcony up above. A band 
plays and people swirl all around you to the music, filling up your view. Most of 
your attention focuses on your dance partner, and you reserve whatever is left to 
make sure that you don't collide with dancers close by. You let yourself get 
carried away by the music, your partner, and the moment. . . . But if you had gone 
up to the balcony and looked down on the dance floor, you might have seen a 
very different picture. You would have noticed all sorts of patterns. For example, 
you might have observed that when slow music played, only some people danced; 
when the tempo increased, others stepped onto the floor; and some people never 
seemed to dance at all.. . . Achieving a balcony perspective means taking yourself 
out of the dance, in your mind, even if only for a moment. The only way you can 
gain both a clearer view of reality and some perspective on the bigger picture is 
by distancing yourself from the fray. . . . [And,] if you want to affect what is 
happening, you have to return to the dance floor. Staying on the balcony in a safe 
observer role is as much a prescription for ineffectuality as never achieving that 

1 Q7 

perspective in the first place. 

This is an important skill for pastors to develop, being able to be both a collaborative 
participant and a leader-observer. This is also a concept deeply rooted in some of the 
core values of queer theology (e.g., mutuality, fluidity, etc.) that we are seeking to 
integrate into congregational praxis. For this reason, it is all the more important for 
pastors to learn and model this practice. 

Cormode argues that one of the primary responsibilities of spiritual leaders is to 
help communities interpret and construct meaning. As his book title suggests, this act of 
"making spiritual sense" draws on cultural resources and engages the community in 
reflecting on its own core values and experiences in order to understand the dynamics of 
change and navigate desired change successfully. To explore one of the potential ways 
of doing this, let's return to the practice of giving the work back to the people, described 
by Heifetz and Linsky. As I mentioned earlier, pastors can rarely (if ever) effectively 

197 Heifetz and Linsky, 53. 


manage adaptive change by rendering decisions from on high; rather, they must work 
more mutually and collaboratively with the congregation. This involves giving the work 
back to those who must take responsibility for it and reinterpreting it as a joint endeavor 
and a shared opportunity for growth. Several strategies can facilitate this process as well 
as help construct the type of meaning that will advance the change process. Perhaps most 
importantly, the pastor has the opportunity to make some observations, simple 
"statements that reflect back to people their behavior or attempt to describe current 
conditions." For example, opportunities to make observations about an apparent lack 
of alignment between core values and enacted behavior often present themselves in MCC. 
It can sometimes be helpful for leaders to draw the group's attention to the gaps that exist 
between what we have articulated as our goal or vision and how we are actually behaving 
in a given situation, or, in other words, gaps between our theological beliefs and our lived 
praxis. Some examples of this strategy were explored in the previous chapter. It is also 
true that these observations are not always welcome. There are times, however, when 
they are precisely what is needed. Because leaders exercising this strategy are not doing 
so from above, from a position of structural authority, but rather with, from a position of 
having been granted cultural authority, there are ways to make this type of difficult 
observation effectively. Two possible approaches may be helpful: asking questions and 
offering interpretations. Asking questions invites the group itself to evaluate and 
interpret the situation together; it presents an opportunity for people to describe 

198 Ibid., 135. 

199 Ibid., 136-7. 


themselves and articulate for themselves both the reality and the presenting challenges. If 
the group seems reluctant or is unable to do this, offering tentative interpretations and 
inviting the group to respond can advance the conversation and analysis. 

The construction of meaning, which is an important aspect of leading 
congregational change, is about more than only analyzing and describing the current 
situation or deconstructing behaviors, attitudes, or structures that may be problematic. 
One must also help the congregation construct new behaviors, attitudes, and structures 
that more accurately reflect their aspirations. For example, Cormode argues that leaders 
cannot discredit old behaviors, ideas, values, etc. "without creating a new way of being to 
replace it." 200 This has particular implications for MCC in terms of how we integrate the 
core values of queer theology into our congregational praxis. In my observation, there 
are many existing instances in which this has not occurred successfully. Many 
congregations have done excellent work at deconstructing, discrediting, and de- 
legitimizing exclusive, homophobic, and erotophobic theologies and church structures. 
We have identified some definite problems, theoretically and practically. However, 
many in our churches fall back on old bo4y-denying and erotophobic thoughts and 
behaviors in times of crisis or overwhelming change. This is likely because we have not 
yet done a very good job of reconstructing useful and effective ways of integrating 
sexuality and spirituality. Even though we have articulated the latter as one of our 
primary missions, we still have work to do to create congregational cultures that 
consistently practice creative ways of doing this together. We would also do well to note 

200 Cormode, xvii. 


that how we engage people on this task of reconstruction is as important as the content or 
character of the new structures we co-create together. 

There is one additional aspect of leading change specifically in queer 
communities that it seems necessary to explore. Because queer churches intentionally 
attend to some of the more uncomfortable dynamics of change — including the presence 
of ambiguity, the discomfort of marginality, and the deconstruction of deeply ingrained 
patterns of belief and behavior reinforced by dominant culture — leaders need to be 
attentive to the feelings of loss and disorientation people are having. I sometimes refer to 
this function of pastoral leadership in queer churches as being a "chaplain of the gaps." 
What I mean by this is that often pastors of MCC congregations are called upon to simply 
be present with people in the margins or to companion people through the ambiguity they 
experience when previously presumed stable, fixed, or impermeable identities or 
boundaries are queered/transgressed. Until there is a new equilibrium established, people 
and the community as a whole have to learn how to live in a state or through stages of 
liminality. Understanding the feelings of fear, anger, loss, and anxiety that are 
common in this stage, leaders might seek to develop certain relational skills whereby they 
help attend to those feelings. By providing a non-anxious presence, pastors can absorb 
some of the anxiety and help individuals and groups more comfortably acknowledge and 
work with/through the feelings of fear and loss. It is also incumbent upon leaders to both 
recognize and use the incredible creative potential of liminality for congregational 


See pages 77-81 for a more complete description, in which I have argued that liminality is a 
constant feature of queer church. As soon as a new equilibrium is established in the sense of having a new 
stable identity or norm, which we know from experience eventually marginalizes others, we must then seek 
to deconstruct the new norm in the greater cause of creating even more inclusive communities. 


development. One of ways of tapping into this potential is to understand and take 
advantage of the special camaraderie that can develop between people sharing this 
experience. Leaders who are able to identify, call attention to, and nurture this naturally 
emerging egalitarian way of relating can help queer communities draw upon it 
strategically as a queer cultural resource. 

One practical strategy for this involves the art of helping promote and strengthen 
individual relationships. The bonds of connection people naturally experience in times of 
liminality can also be intentionally created by leaders who draw attention to points of 
connection that might otherwise be overlooked. Joyce Fletcher discusses a practice of 
"translating" people for others as one way of working towards this. If two dissimilar 
members of a group are describing an experience that they do not realize is shared, or 
worse, that they have judged negatively for the other person, the leader can make 
observations about the similarities or points of commonality. They may also recast one 
person's experiences in light of the other person's experience in order to draw parallels 
that may not have been originally noticed. In a similar strategy, when leaders realize that 
certain people in a group are being dismissed, they may help "translate" their opinions or 
experience to others so that they do not dismiss the content. This has the dual effect of 
building connections and, if it happens in the group context, of providing additional 
language and communication skills for those whose words may have been misunderstood 
or disregarded or "disappeared" because of negative prejudice based on a personal 

Joyce K. Fletcher, Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power and Relational Practice at Work, 
(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), 52. 

203 Ibid., 3. 


characteristic. As spiritual leaders in MCC become conversant with the complex 
intersection of oppressions, this can be an incredible relational tool for helping bridge 
different segments of a diverse community. Because deconstructing normative privilege 
is a queer activity and because this becomes most difficult when we understand and 
honor the complex nature of privilege that forms at the intersection of oppressions, this 
may be one of the most important skills for leaders to develop. If leaders can help the 
community recognize the similar and dissimilar ways in which different segments of 
minority communities experience injustice and oppression, as well as the ways we 
ourselves oppress and exclude others, we can then begin to deconstruct the privileges 
built upon these oppressions. Once we begin to deconstruct the normative privileges 
without simply trying to gain access to the privileges for ourselves, we will make 
significant progress on our journey to becoming authentic queer communities. 
Relational practices, like those described briefly above, are incredibly compatible with 
pastoral leadership that relies on cultural authority. These practices may be among the 
best resources for leading adaptive change in queer congregations. 

The Pastoral Art of Improvisation 

Although I have described some examples of the dynamics of adaptive change in 
MCC, as well as some of the types of skills and strategies leaders may employ to help 
lead change successfully, I am also very aware that based on the nature of adaptive 

4 1 am indebted to Kelly Brown Douglas, Carter Heyward, Robert Goss, and Mark Jordan for 
their panel discussion at a recent conference called Queering Church at the Boston University School of 
Theology (April 17-19, 2007), after which I came to understand more clearly just how important this 
qualifying sentence "without simply trying to gain access to the privileges for ourselves''' is for queer 


change and the nature of queer communities in constant transition, leading change in 
MCC congregations will always be an improvisational art. In order to improvise well, 
leaders must try to understand the complexities of what is happening in the community, 
in individual members of it, and in themselves. I have argued that one of the fundamental 
changes queer churches want to make is to become inclusive communities. It is 
important to realize that the prejudices we have to confront and resist do not only exist 
"out there" in the broader church and world, they also exist "in here" in our hearts and in 
our congregations. Quite understandably, this means that we will sustain some pain as 
we go about our work of becoming queer churches. This is where our experience as 
pastors can help us. We know what it is like to be present with people who are hurting, 
people who are dying, people who are grieving. We know how to be a non-anxious 
presence with people and how to live with them into the unknown and unpredictable. We 
would do well not to compartmentalize these skills as ways only of providing pastoral 
care, but also as cultural and relational resources for leading change and queering the 

Finally, it is also worthy of note that while leading change in queer spiritual 
communities can be an incredibly exciting activity, it can also be exhausting. It is 
imperative that pastors and other leaders are attentive to their own needs for spiritual 
nurture and support, for friendships outside of the church, for balance, beauty, sex, 
laughter, rest, and all of the other things that inspire and sustain our creativity and work. 
Like the core values of queer churches, this is also a statement that is aspirational in 
nature. It is my hope that keeping our goals ever before us may remind us where we 


hope to be heading, and evoke our gratitude for the moments in which we glimpse 
ourselves and our churches actually moving in the right direction. 



One of the challenges I experience in having a conversation like this about what it 
means to queer the church and how we might most effectively go about doing so in MCC 
is the constant need to stretch to maintain optimum connection. For example, in this 
thesis I began with a task I wish was unnecessary — i.e., defining the word queer — 
because, no matter how much I wish it were otherwise, establishing a common 
vocabulary is a necessary prerequisite for allowing the greatest number of people possible 
to take part in the conversation. If this definitional work was unnecessary and a shared 
understanding of the meaning and potential of "queer" were a given, obviously the 
conversation could be advanced much further. However, since this is not the case, we 
must stretch backwards in order to invite and encourage others to journey with us even as 
we stretch forward to avoid being left behind as the conversation progresses. This is one 
explanation for the troublesome gap that seems always to exist between the academy 
(where prerequisites can be required) and the church, a gap I believe pastors are called to 
bridge. Another example of this stretching exercise that is more practically related to my 


experience of ministry in MCC has to do with the simultaneous need we have to provide 
triage for the constant stream of people that trickle into our churches deeply wounded by 
homophobic church and society, and those who have had sufficient time for healing and 
are eager to explore the more radical aspects of queer spirituality. For example, it is 
difficult in one congregation to have a deeply meaningful conversation about the ethics of 
polyamory or the queer nature of Christ when some of the participants in that 
conversation are still struggling with the question "Can I be both gay and Christian?" or 


"Does God really love me?" Yet, this is the task before us, characterized by both 
challenge and opportunity. 

I am convinced that pastors and other spiritual leaders in MCC can help 
congregations more broadly and thoroughly integrate the insights and core values of 
queer theology into congregational life. It will require of us a courageous commitment to 
being intentional about analyzing the ways we are actually living as the church and 
critiquing the ways in which our practices do not reflect our core values or best desires. 
The things we have learned about healing the toxic divide between spirituality and 
sexuality and body and soul are not lessons limited in their application to matters of sex 
and gender. The skills we have developed that permit us to deconstruct hetero-patriarchal 
privilege are skills desperately needed to deconstruct the other normative privileges 
(including those that benefit us) that perpetuate injustice, as well as the complex 
intersection of oppressions in which we all find ourselves living. The insights we have 
gained about the sacred value of transgressing rigidity and exposing the inadequacy of 
binarisms are insights desperately needed in a world plagued by so many wars and 
divisions. MCC has some unique contributions to make to the world, and our grassroots 
history of living and breathing and deconstructing and constructing and reconstructing 
queer theology may be one of the greatest. My earnest hope is that we will claim this as a 
calling and be as relentless as we are resourceful in living it faithfully. 



"ACT UP Capsule History," 

Adam, Barry D. "From Liberation to Transgression and Beyond: Gay, Lesbian and Queer 
Studies at the Turn of the Century." In Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 
Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE, 2002. 

Althaus-Reid, Marcella. Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and 
Politics. London: Routledge, 2000. 

. The Queer God. London: Routledge, 2003. 

Altman, Dennis. Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation; with new introduction by 
Jeffrey Weeks and new afterword by the author. New York: New York 
University Press, 1993. 

Bass, Dorothy C. Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life. Edited by 
Dorothy C. Bass and Miroslav Volf. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman's, 2002. 

Berlant, Lauren, and Michael Warner. "What Does Queer Theory Teach Us About X?" 
Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (PMLAJ 1 10, no. 3 
(May 1995): 343-349. 

Berryman, Phillip. Liberation Theology: Essential Facts about the Revolutionary 

Movement in Latin America— and Beyond. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 

Burton-Christie, Douglas. "Into the Body of Another: Eros, Embodiment and Intimacy 
with the Natural World." Anglican Theological Review 81 (1999): 13-37. 

Butler, Judith. "Changing the Subject: Judith Butler's Politics of Radical 

Resignification," interview with Gary A. Olson and Lynn Worsham. In The Judith 
Butler Reader. Edited by Sara Salih with Judith Butler. Maiden, Massachusetts: 
Blackwell, 2004. 

. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: 

Routledge, 1990. 

Carson, Timothy L. "Liminal Reality and Transformational Power: Pastoral 

Interpretation and Method." Journal of Pastoral Theology 7 (Summer 1997): 99- 

Chauncey, George. "Christian Brotherhood or Sexual Perversion? Homosexual Identities 
and the Construction of Sexual Boundaries in the World War I Era." In Hidden 


from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. Edited by Martin Bauml 
Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr. New York: NAL Books, 

. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male 

World, 1890-1940. New York: Basic Books, 1994. 

Cohen, Cathy J. "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of 
Queer Politics?" In Black Queer Studies: A Critican Anthology. Durham, NC: Duke 
University Press, 2005. 

Cormode, Scott. Making Spiritual Sense: Christian Leaders as Spiritual Interpreters. 
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006. 

D'Emilio, John. "Gay Politics and Community in San Francisco Since World War II." In 
Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. Edited by Martin 
Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr. New York: NAL 
Books, 1989. 

Dykstra, Craig, and Dorothy C. Bass. Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in 
Christian Life. Edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Miroslav Volf. Grand Rapids, 
Michigan: Eerdman's, 2002. 

Dynes, Wayne R., Ed. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Garland, New York: Taylor & 
Francis, 1990. 

Ellison, Marvin M. Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality. Louisville, Kentucky: 
Westminster John Knox, 1996. 

Feinberg, Leslie. Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis 
Rodman. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996. 

Fletcher, Joyce K. Disappearing Acts : Gender, Power and Relational Practice at Work. 
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. 

Flunder, Yvette A. Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion. 
Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2005. 

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Translated by Robert Hurley. 1st American 
Ed.; New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. 

Galindo, Israel. The Hidden Lives of Congregations : Discerning Church Dynamics. 
Herndon, Virginia: Alban, 2004. 

Glaser, Chris. Coming Out as Sacrament. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 


Goss, Robert. Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto. San Francisco: 
HarperSanFrancisco, 1993. 

. Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2002. 

and Mona West, Eds. Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible. 

Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2000. 

Grahn, Judy. Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds. Updated and Expanded; 
Boston: Beacon Press, 1990. 

Harrison, Beverly Wildung. "Human Sexuality and Mutuality." In Christian Feminism: 
Visions of a New Humanity. Edited by Judith L. Weidman. San Francisco: Harper 
&Row, 1984. 

Helminiak, Daniel A. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. San Francisco: 
Alamo Square Press, 1994. 

Human Rights Campaign Official Website, 

Hunt, Mary. "Roundtable Discussion: Same-Sex Marriage." Journal of Feminist Studies 
in Religion 20, no. 2 (2004): 83-1 17. 

Heifetz, Ronald A., and Martin Linsky. Leadership on the Line : Staying Alive through 
the Dangers of Leading. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2002. 

Internet Movie Database Description of Rent (2005). 

Jagose, Annamarie. Queer Theory: An Introduction. New York: New York University 
Press, 1996. 

Jeffreys, Sheila. The Lesbian Heresy: a Feminist Perspective on the Lesbian Sexual 
Revolution. Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex, 1993. 

Johnson, E. Patrick. "'Quare' Studies, Or (almost) Everything I Know about Queer 
Studies I Learned from My Grandmother," In Black Queer Studies: A Critican 
Anthology. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2005. 

Kinnamon, David and Gabe Lyons. UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Things 
about Christianity ... and Why it Matters. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 

Lauritsen, John, and David Thorstad. The Early Homosexual Rights Movement, 1864- 
1935. Rev. Edition; Ojai, California: Times Change Press, 1995. 


Lopez, Barry. Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. New 
York: Bantam, 1987. 

Lugones, Maria. "Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System." Hypatia 
22(2007): 186-209. 

MCC of Greater Dallas "About Us", 

MCC's Core Values as outlined in Strategic Plan, 

MCC's Statement of Vision from MCC Strategic Plan. 2005. 

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 

McNeil, John J. The Church and the Homosexual. Kansas City: Sheed, Andrews, and 
McNeel, 1976. 

Mitulski, Jim. "Ezekiel Understands AIDS, AIDS Understands Ezekiel, or Reading the 
Bible with HIV." In Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible. Edited 
by Goss, Robert E. and Mona West. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2000. 

National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce Official Website, 

Padgug, Robert. "Sexual Matters: Rethinking Sexuality in History." In Hidden from 
History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. Edited by Martin Bauml 
Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr. New York: NAL Books, 

Pauw, Amy Plantinga. "Attending to the Gaps between Beliefs and Practices." In 

Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life. Edited by Dorothy 
C. Bass and Miroslav Volf. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman's, 2002. 

Porter, H. Boone, Jr. "Liminal Mysteries: Some Writings by Victor Turner." Anglican 
Theological Review 57, no. 2 (April 1975): 219. 

Rich, Adrienne. "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence." Signs: Journal of 
Women in Culture and Society 5 (summer 1980): 631-60. 

"Roundtable Discussion: Same-Sex Marriage." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 
20, no. 2 (2004): 83-1 17. 

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: A.A. Levine Books, 


Scanzoni, Letha Dawson and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. Is the Homosexual My 

Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 

Schneider, Laurel. "Queer Theory." In Handbook of Postmodern Biblical Interpretation. 
Edited by A. K. A. Adam. St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2000. 

Stone, Ken, Ed. Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 

Stryker, Susan. "Queer Nation," December, 2004. glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, 

Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, 
sciences/queer_nation . html . 

Stuart, Elizabeth. Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference. 
Hampshire, England: Ashgate, 2003. 

Tanis, Justin. Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry and Communities of Faith. Cleveland: 
Pilgrim Press, 2003. 

Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks and Mary Potter Engel, ed. Lift Every Voice: Constructing 
Christian Theologies from the Underside. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990. 

Tolbert, Mary Ann. "Foreward." In Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible. 
Edited by Goss, Robert. 

Veling, Terry A. Living in the Margins: Intentional Communities and the Art of 
Interpretation. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1996. 

Weeks, Jeffrey. Sexuality and its Discontents: Meanings, Myths, & Modern Sexualities. 
Boston: Routlege & K. Paul, 1985. 

Wilson, Nancy. Our Trible: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible. San Francisco: 
HarperSanFrancisco, 1995. 


y^ at- ^~7 


3 0135 00264 7046